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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 Erik Childress

"Love It or Hate It - It's One of the Year's Best"
4 stars

Going into Dancer in the Dark could have amounted to the equivalent of a double dare. It is the new film from Lars Von Trier, whose foray into shaky camerawork and jump cut editing could make the characters in The Blair Witch Project look like professional cinematographers. It is also a musical (of sorts), a genre that I’ve never been able to pin down a consistent tolerance for. It also stars Icelandic pop singer Bjork whose music could easily be replaced with a chalkboard and fork. Chalk all that into a 134-minute feature and I was ready to be screaming for the Physical Challenge. Yet, like with the kind of magic that only movies can bring to the soul, Dancer in the Dark turned out to be one of the most original, beautiful and moving films of the year.

The aforementioned Bjork stars as Selma, a factory worker in 1963, who lives in a trailer outside the home of policeman Bill & his spendthrift wife, Linda (David Morse & Cara Seymour). She has a 12-year old son whom she loves, but avoids basking him in the delights of materialistic possessions due to more important plans she has lined up for him. Outside this little circle she has her drama class and the movies, which she attends with her good friend from the factory, Kathy (Catherine Deneuve). Selma loves the Hollywood musicals and is so happy to be performing a stage version of The Sound of Music in her class. There’s only one problem. Selma is going blind. And that’s only the beginning. Situations get so complicated for Selma that we if the hardest of musical cynics (who are into the movie) will welcome the minute that Dancer turns that corner.

Dancer in the Dark is as much a dissection of the musical as it is a celebration. Those less supportive of the musical movement have always gagged at the minute any one character breaks out into song only to be joined in with a chorus of fellow characters and bit players. But Von Trier has written a very simplistic way that makes complete sense and seems to have been ignored by every major musical I can ever remember seeing. The musical numbers are DAYDREAMS! Brilliant! This way anytime a song-and-dance begins, it always ends by bringing us back to the exact moment that it began. Observe the unique way music is first brought into the story. Selma works at her station, hearing nothing but the pumps and clanks of the machines around her. Then in a magical seamless motion, the sounds begin to form a rhythm in a “Stomp”-like manner until she picks up on it and bursts free into song with her fellow workers. Even the normally straining lyrics of Bjork’s songs become tolerable, because the emotion is so forthright whenever she goes into fantasy mode that it doesn’t matter what she’s saying. We’re just happy that she’s using her voice.

One thing is for certain and that is you won’t be seeing a criticism of Bjork’s acting ability because she is simply amazing in this film. Displaying a childlike innocence and integrity that may remind some of Forrest Gump, Bjork creates a character that is so sympathetic and so frustrating in her earnestness at times, that we just want to reach out and help her whenever we can. And her performance is aided by a bevy of great support starting with Deneuve, whose efforts to assist her friend as she lapses deeper into her condition is heartbreaking. David Morse turns his neighbor from a trusting, sharing person into an utterly pathetic portrait of deception. And the great Peter Stormare (the silent kidnapper from Fargo in a truly understated and sad performance) plays the one guy willing to offer his love and affection to Selma, but is continually rejected due to her feelings not to burden anyone else with her problems.

Von Trier’s film is not without its faults. The Dogme95 cinematography technique may be breakthrough to those who don’t enjoy steadiness and a clear picture, but actually seems more like a step back and a gimmick not worthy of a poorly-filmed documentary. There are personal camcorders out on the market now that can make home movies of a drunk’s perspective on a foggy night look crystal perfect, leaving there no need for amateur hour. Faded colors can be a rewarding and understandable stylistic choice for any cinematographer and that is the one element that works through the shaky, grainy vision. Determined to show the bleakness of the characters and their situations, the muted shades are a perfect reflection and make for a nice balance when the song-and-dance numbers burst into boisterous colors.

Dancer in the Dark finds itself in that exclusive position of being one of those scattered titles released each year that divides its audience right down the middle. Like The Blair Witch Project or Eyes Wide Shut, this is a true love-it-or-hate-it movie. This is not a movie for everyone and certainly not for someone looking for some light fun on a Friday night. But don’t let expectations dictate your decision to see it. After all, I expected to hate it and ended up loving it. Von Trier’s previous film, Breaking the Waves was not an easy film itself. So, what seems like another study in European tragedy turns into something much more beautiful and all the more sadder because of our identification on some basic level with the Selma character, thanks to the powerful Oscar-worthy work of Bjork. The film joins movies like Almost Famous and High Fidelity this year, but even more than either of those, Dancer In the Dark shows how truly important entertainment can be to the individual. Movies, music, books, plays all become staples of our existence and in the worst of times can be there for us to make us laugh, make us smile, or make us sing. Love it or hate it, Dancer in the Dark is one of the best and most original films of the year.

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originally posted: 10/19/00 13:05:20
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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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