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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 24.5%
Average: 1.99%
Pretty Bad: 0.66%
Total Crap: 4.64%

10 reviews, 91 user ratings

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Dancer in the Dark
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by Greg Muskewitz

"Breathtaking. It redefines musicals."
5 stars

When the really good films start rolling in, you really take notice of it. Since the release of The Cell in middle August, there seems to be a consistency of stragglers falling in on a more regular basis than from the first half of the year. 2000 has been pretty dull. However, Dancer in the Dark is a touching, heart wrenching film that's arrival couldn't be any more crisp and fresh.

Dancer in the Dark is a heterogeneous mix of quite a few things. We have a free-wheeling camera by anti-gimmick director Lars Von Trier, innovative, unusual Icelandic alterna-pop star Björk starring in a heavy-handed, yet fancifully light drama with spontaneous musical numbers. I have never been a fan of musicals; like one of the characters asks, "Why do they suddenly start to sing and dance?" The musical numbers were becoming the downfall of Disney movies, and in other movies it was rarely on the same level as the rest of the movie.

It's 1964 in the Washington State area, and Selma (Björk) is a Czech immigrant with a 10-year-old son, Gene (Vladica Kostic). Selma works at a factory making sinks, but she hides the fact that she's going blind. It's a family disease, one aggravated by stress, so Selma keeps Gene from knowing about it. While she's especially strict and thrifty when it comes to her son, in privacy she's been saving all her money for a correctional operation for Gene.

Selma and Gene live in a rented trailer belonging to neighbors Bill (David Morse), a cop, and his spendthrift wife Linda (Cara Seymour). When Bill lets Selma in on a secret that he's gone broke and unable to tell his wife, she tells him about Gene's upcoming surgery. But Bill, unable to tell her still, steals the money, forcing Selma to "rob" him, and kill him. Selma has no alternatives. All her efforts have gone into the money, including threading hairpins. She's so simplistic, very childlike almost unaware to the bad. But she's innocent -heck, she imagines singing musical numbers and breaking into song and dance to pass the time ("In a musical, nothing dreadful ever happens."). Selma briefly runs away to secure the operation, and upon arrival, she is arrested and quickly sentenced to be hanged. Even when there's a possibility for her to be cleared ("She's a romantic, communistic woman who adores Fred Astaire."), she doesn't want the money used on her. Her altruism is noble and honest. And of course over the aggravation and stress of this all, Selma has just about gone completely blind.

Dancer in the Dark is definitely not a positive-feeling film, although there are positive messages, it actually is very depressing. Nothing illustrated the pure determination and love like the way Selma proved by her sacrifice. Von Trier, also the writer, wove a plain story without much décor, and with the addition of the song and dance -about 6 or 7 numbers-creates an equilibrium of symmetry for the film. The first number, "Cvalda," was the best of the film and most elaborate (although the choreography on the train and the courtroom was also very good), but the rhythmic grinding, clattering and crashing in the factory was very catchy and clever. It carried a daedal and halcyonic beat, very enjoyable with a very at ease feeling. In the film, the fourth number kind of felt monologuey, but sounds much better on the soundtrack. It's the opposite for the third song, which looks good on screen, but the song isn't as powerful without the visuals.

The sacrificial theme is totally identifiable, and that's what makes it so poignant. Selma's friend Jeff (Peter Stormare) asks her, "Why did you have him? You knew he'd have the same disease." She explains, "I just wanted to hold a baby."

Björk is note-perfect, to the tee. She envelops one of the most stunning debuts in a long time. Björk never comes across as anything less than real. The little quirks she does as her character, like sticking her tongue out of the corner of her mouth or placing her finger in the glass to feel for the level of water all add to the validity of her nuances. Björk's music, that which came before this film, is very creative; she is one of my favorite artists. And in acting, she captures and controls the same panoply of power and intrigue. She doesn't just give it, she demands it. Björk provides a mellifluous continuity and impressive array; not only does she capture the eye (and the heart), but as the rara avis she is, and the unique, unusual voice she speaks with, I hope she gets the recognition she deserves.
Although Björk is truly the star of this, David Morse, Peter Stormare, Joel Grey, Cara Seymour, Vladica Kostic and Udo Kier are all very good supporters, but even better are Catherine Deneuve and a beautifully humane role by Siobhan Fallon.

Von Trier effectively controls everything that happens during the film. He knows where to poke bits of humor (about Björk's unique voice: "I think she sings funny."), but also he is able to reduce the audience to tears. The airy, hand-held cinematography by Von Trier and Robby Müller is a major flaw. It's so shifty (and choppily cut) and monochromatically drabish, except during the numbers when it becomes a bleached bright. Yet these flaws are easy to overlook for the arrangement of the whole.

Dancer in the Dark is a bold, deeply touching film. Definitely one of the year's best. Björk's music creations and compositions for the film are ethereal. Her performance evokes magic, and it goes without saying that this is a cinematic masterpiece. It dares to redefine the standards for musicals to come. Dancer in the Dark is revolutionary for all musicals! It also has the most note-perfect ending (not that we like it) since The Straight Story.

Final Verdict: A.

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originally posted: 10/18/00 09:39:34
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User Comments

5/16/17 Louise How can a film with Bjork & Deneuve be so absolutely appalling? Hated it. 1 stars
1/25/14 Taco Town So powerful! Bjork deserved an Oscar 5 stars
11/26/12 Joel An utter masterpiece of cinema 5 stars
7/23/08 R.W. Welch Innovative, but too overtly maudlin to have much impact. 3 stars
3/14/08 A.l. Green A trulr memorable and mesmerising film. Bjork is brilliant in this film 5 stars
10/06/06 wei it is a brilliant film i have ever seen. 5 stars
12/17/05 K. Sear A beautifully traumatising film. 5 stars
11/01/05 nikola charles tatum your comment is so idiotic and pretencious and you are a stupid moron 5 stars
7/31/05 yuko makes you think 5 stars
7/19/05 Brian A very misunderstood film and WORTH its hype for ONCE! 5 stars
11/24/04 me powerful film, plus bjork rocks 5 stars
8/28/04 Abu the best movie for the millennium 5 stars
5/24/04 Daveman Fascinating film, doesn't need to be as "heartbreaking" as it's said to be (which it isn't) 5 stars
3/06/04 milko ramirez such a very very good musical, still i can stop cry 5 stars
1/14/04 Julia The wierdest musical I've ever seen with a conclusion that left me sobbing. 5 stars
1/02/04 mooglee this movie isn't for losers 5 stars
12/29/03 I Would Another masterpiece from Lars Von Trier. Even better than Breaking The Waves. 5 stars
12/27/03 Charles Tatum What's worse: Buhjork's awful songs or this shaky Dogma direction crap? 1 stars
12/25/03 paul heslep outstanding... far deeper than it might first appear 5 stars
12/08/03 Jeremy painful but incredible. nothing quite like bjork is hot.. 5 stars
9/28/03 Adnan Baysal It was the best movie I've seen 5 stars
7/11/03 harris Bjork's talent as an actress almost matches her music. 5 stars
3/19/03 Jack Sommersby Chance-taking yet just-plain unwatchable artsy garbage. Bjork's bush next time, please. 1 stars
2/19/03 Michael Lefebvre This Movie was a disgrace to musicals through all of time. Bjork was terrible! 1 stars
2/07/03 natasha_theobald wrenching drama with exceptional performances and moving moments 5 stars
1/01/03 Andy Todes bjork. most talented female alive? yepadoodle. 5 stars
12/28/02 grardo wow 5 stars
12/25/02 Goofy Maxwell Get outta yo' funk: no dance grooves here, only Bjork's primal screams healing the pain. 5 stars
11/20/02 Ionicera brilliant and sad if a little contrived 4 stars
10/18/02 Elizaveta a real film. 5 stars
10/06/02 moestifer aagghhrrr the pain! embrace the pain! 5 stars
9/26/02 Ross Santos It is very unpredictable and astonishing! such power!!! 5 stars
9/14/02 Eddie Pinietti This toon is fuckin' MINT (but I am biased, being a Bjorkite for several years' time) 5 stars
2/23/02 Unanon Weird and dark. Bjork's music blends beautifully with this rather pathetic story. Gorgeous 5 stars
12/10/01 maja go see"braking the waves",forget this movie! 2 stars
9/30/01 daniboy Easily 2000's best film (and best actress). Academy voters can go fuck themselves 5 stars
9/08/01 dazzza groundbreaking arthouse filmaking at its best,challenge you not to cry at the end 5 stars
8/14/01 shankster One of the 5 best films ever made. No, I'm fucking serious. See it! Now! 5 stars
7/06/01 Bluesblasts this is how film should be . an astonishing work of art . embrace björk . love von Trier' . 5 stars
7/05/01 keren azugi amazing 5 stars
6/28/01 Bokonan very moving 5 stars
6/27/01 Gizzy So heartbreaking, depressing, devastating...but oh so good 5 stars
6/07/01 Basil Bjork is amazing. 5 stars
5/14/01 Steve best movie of 2000 4 stars
5/10/01 de urooj i love sex and fucking 1 stars
5/07/01 The Bomb 69 Bjork should have won the Oscar, not even getting nominated was a travesty 5 stars
4/22/01 pennywise you just wanted to help her, protect her-made me cry 5 stars
4/01/01 Frankly Wow. I was amazed--such a powerful movie, hidden behind a small guise of depression. 5 stars
3/28/01 Alice Soares BRILLIANT- UNLIKE HOLLYWOOD TRIPE 5 stars
3/28/01 Larissa Rojas it´s the greatest movie I have ever seen 5 stars
3/27/01 Surprised Viewer Fascinating combination of a musical and drama. I was deeply moved by the ending. 4 stars
3/26/01 John Hall extraordinary if you can appreciate a perspective outside of normalcy 5 stars
3/23/01 greensweater annoying drivel 1 stars
3/22/01 Royce Vavrek absolutely fabulous 5 stars
3/19/01 J.Arcane A mighty film - top3 film of 2000 5 stars
2/21/01 Rocket Boy Sad, at times manipulative, with a touching performance from pop star Bjork. 4 stars
2/14/01 LOOBER One of the best foreign films of 2000 5 stars
1/31/01 msalq sa 5 stars
1/12/01 Belinda Emanuel Dancer in the Dark is a fresh cinematic experience if want to see some very powerful perfo 4 stars
1/09/01 matthew smith a staggering experience 4 stars
1/06/01 Viking Bjork is simply awesome !!! 5 stars
1/02/01 B. v. Wonderen superb acting of bjork she is really the best 5 stars
12/20/00 Nina an absolute cinematic masterpeice 5 stars
12/06/00 Silvia Probably the most amazing movie I've seen! 5 stars
12/05/00 David Feltl Great, though, for me, not as strong as Breaking The Waves 5 stars
11/19/00 Joan van der Lingen it really touched me, as it did the friends i saw it with. 5 stars
11/15/00 Stacie Unlike anything I have seen... reality-altering experience! 5 stars
11/15/00 Tony Jenkins Haunting. Unforgettable. 5 stars
11/14/00 Heather Weird & wonderful movie, absolute mindf*ck of an ending 5 stars
11/13/00 carol White Absolutely the best film I have seen... I went a s 5 stars
11/12/00 J.P. Couch Wonderful;excellent;amazing!!! 5 stars
11/07/00 mike lambie refreshing, bold, good wake-up to reality, wonderful to exercise many emotions 5 stars
11/07/00 Ethan is not like wow, its like woooow!!! 5 stars
11/01/00 Joel Lueders Oh my god, i didnt think it would touch me, as it went on.. But then I was taken over. 5 stars
11/01/00 Tom Rogers Takes far more than it returns 1 stars
10/29/00 jette bjork is incredible, fabulous, brilliant, with a voice like god? 5 stars
10/25/00 naz ok 3 stars
10/23/00 gil gilad superb, a masterpiece & a must !!!!! 5 stars
10/22/00 Mel Russell THis film is one of the best of all time, don't miss it! 5 stars
10/21/00 yihong yao not your unual type of happy hollywood movies. strong performance and direction 5 stars
10/21/00 Johnny Figaro Rewarding, exhausting, exhilarating... truly original art. 5 stars
10/19/00 Robert Cruickshank Good lord what a great film. 5 stars
10/18/00 Maarten Delmotte Absolutely breathtaking - sigh 5 stars
10/17/00 za Disturbing and memorable. Makes you think for days. 5 stars
10/10/00 Jeffrey A. Haas Dancer in the Dark is a post-modern masterpiece.It's innovative, daring, exhilarating! 5 stars
10/08/00 HobieKen Fantastic film. A very rare, truely original experience. 5 stars
10/08/00 skye chapman not for your average american film consumer (and that's good!) 4 stars
10/08/00 syd the feel-good mvie of the year! 5 stars
10/02/00 gil gilad unique & great, a masterpiece & a must see. 5 stars
9/19/00 engin dazzling! 5 stars
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  06-Oct-2000 (R)


  26-Dec-2000 (MA)

Directed by
  Lars Von Trier

Written by
  Lars Von Trier

  Catherine Deneuve
  Joel Grey
  Udo Kier
  David Morse
  Peter Stormare

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