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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 24.34%
Average: 1.97%
Pretty Bad: 0.66%
Total Crap: 4.61%

10 reviews, 92 user ratings

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Dancer in the Dark
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Collin Souter

"Love It or Hate It, I Won't Argue With You"
5 stars

Sometimes you come across a movie where everything you’ve heard about it turns out to be true. Everybody told me I would either love Dancer In The Dark or hate it. Whatever the reaction, it would be extreme. No middle ground. So, yes, I can safely say that I loved Dancer, but I hesitate recommending it to just anybody.

First off, the film has not been made in quite the way you usually expect a film to be made. The film’s writer/director/cameraman Lars Von Trier (Breaking The Waves) founded Dogma 95, an avant-garde film company devoted to defying all conventions that go along with traditional filmmaking. The members of Dogma 95 use no un-natural settings, no artificial or extra lighting, no real actors, and no set designers. They only do pure, raw filmmaking.

Though Dancer takes its cue from the aforementioned rules, it does break them from time to time. If you don’t like the shaky-cam stylings of The Blair Witch Project or early-90’s Woody Allen, you should probably stay away.

Secondly, this little tragedy has musical numbers, some of which turn out to be quite elaborate. The first one comes a whole 45 minutes into the film and when it does, you feel as though you just received shot through the heart with adrenaline. These will not look or sound like any musical numbers you’ve ever seen before. The songs do not use the standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus structure. These feel more like stream-of-consciousness musical numbers. They will come off as awkward and stilted to those who have a “musical number” preference. If we had musical numbers in real life, they would probably be a lot like this. No fancy costumes and no artificial lighting necessary.

Finally, the story. What a downer. The film takes place in 1964, and tells the story of a single mother named Selma, (played by Icelandic pop star Bjork) who will go blind in a few months. She works a day job at a factory to support her and her 11-year-old son, for whom she has saved up a few thousand dollars for an operation, since she cannot bare the thought of he too going blind later in life. At night, she retreats to rehearsals for a community production of The Sound Of Music where she fakes her way through the simplest of directions, like walking to the center of the stage. Still, since she has found a place where one has so sing and dance, she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Meanwhile, her landlord (David Morse), who has financial problems of his own, learns of Selma’s secret stash of money. After confiding in her and gaining her trust, as well as learning of her near-blindness, he steals her money, an act which results in murder. Here, the movie takes its biggest dramatic leap, as it segues into an allegory on mercy killing and the death penalty.

So, what do we have here? A home movie musical with a sad story about going blind. Wrong. This movie has a lot more under its sleeve, especially in the third act.
The movie’s message sums itself up toward the end when Selma has been stripped of her belongings as well as her sounds. She tries desperately to find a sound—any sound—in her enclosed room to which she can connect and mentally disappear. Like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, this film’s message has a lot to do with the power of daydreams.

Bjork’s character seems almost childlike in her innocence and, even more startling, once she crosses that line from innocent to guilty, she retains that sense of innocence. She only needs the banging and clattering rhythm of machines to ground herself down into her blissful other-world of musical numbers “where nothing dreadful ever happens.”

Bjork’s performance won her the Best Actress award at Cannes, and it should come as no surprise to anyone when she gets nominated for an Oscar next spring. She gives the best performance by a pop singer ever. She could definitely quit her day job, but she has said that she does not wish to do any more acting, since she learned how grueling and demanding it can be. Bjork’s dedication and commitment to this role places her in the same ranks as Jim Carrey in Man On The Moon and Meryl Streep in…anything. One critic has been quoted as describing Bjork’s acting style as a re-invention of the art form. Another bit of hype that turned out to be true. She definitely gets my vote for Best Actress of the year.

Some people will walk out in the middle of this film. Some will love it, some will outright loathe it. I can understand any reaction to this odd, little freak of a movie. I’m not one of those critics who will give four stars to a movie just because “it’s different.” I will give a movie a four star rating if the film moves me, excites me, makes me think about the world in which we live, has top-notch acting, unusually smart dialogue, something that shows me that the filmmakers love what they do, that they have a passion for the art form, and, yes, if the film sets itself apart from the rest of the pack. In the case of Dancer In The Dark, the above would be a massive understatement.

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originally posted: 02/18/01 19:48:17
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User Comments

12/06/19 David Hollingsworth A truly bleak, disturbing, but masterful experience. 5 stars
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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