Dancer in the Dark

Reviewed By Thom
Posted 10/10/00 18:02:25

"Zentropa was less fussy and way broodier."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Were these the honest performances so touted by the Dogma 95 group? Natural lighting, lots of improvisation, minimal camera work. Except for the musical numbers, which featured 100 cameras. But then this is a movie starring Bjork. Its the madonna rule. no rock singers in a film unless said rock singer IS the soundtrack.

And it could have just become a vehicle for Bjork, but Catherine Deneuve was in it as well. and she's like big name French actress right there.

It ended up being an ensemble piece. and the performances that Von Trier is legendary for wrenching out of his actors was sort of there. I think there is some private artsy fartsy international cinema club where people get really excited about concepts that are better left played with by college students and radically experimental film makers. Maybe the once actors now celebrities who are already culturally sophisticated just because they are foreign want to get that authentic acting experience again.

Its a good movie though, and a great story and lots of great dialogue and improbably labyrinthine plot points.

Its NOT a musical except by default. The character Bjork plays, Selma, often daydreams when she hears the rythym of the machinery in the factory where she works. During these moments of reverie, we are taken inside Selma's head where she sings and dances. She likes musicals because "nothing dreadful ever happens in a musical."

Joel Grey (Caberet) plays a dancer in this film. I thought that was cute.

This film could only have been made by people who knew people who wondered if anyone was doing anything and if they wanted to come play with the Dogma 95 principals and make a big splash at Cannes and be celebrated for their artsy fartsyness. Which is just what happened. Bjork won the Palm D'or for being ultra-cool.

There were moments where it seemed like everyone enjoyed being on the screen and other times when, knowing what I know about how the film was made (von Trier likes to use psychological manipulation to let a natural energy build in a scene. That used to be called Method Acting. And its the reason Bjork has said she'll never act again. She hated what Von Trier was doing. And she is an artist who knows plenty about the vagueries of the human spirit and how to conjure emotion.) there were other times when people looked as if they had been put on the spot and were trying desperately to get that visceral, heart-pounding transmittal of being completely in the moment with your character but felt as if they weren't quite getting there but it was all being filmed and there wouldn't be a second take.

Masochistic Actors. But everyone at Cannes loved it and it IS a good movie but it is also trying to DO something and it was made just as much for Von Trier and the actors ensemble as it was for a potential audience. The Trying To Do Something part didn't always do. I think there were times when the communication among the actors as they were trying to improvise and create energy just plain broke down .

But so what. Bjork is in it. I'm not going to take myself as seriously as a critic as this film took itself seriously as capital C cinema. There are a few Bjork videos embedded in the plot. That was cool. The film did focus on the actors rather than the lights and sound, except for the musical numbers. four of them. Nothing was really dressed up, there was no glamour, except for Linda, played by Cara Seymour (she has other screen credits, I swear), whose character was supposed to be starletesque. She's also a fine actor.

The last thing I have to say is that this movie didn't move me at all. I was fascinated by it, but I was detached emotionally from what was happening on the screen. and I don't know why because shit like this usually gets to me. Maybe it was the apparent phoniness of scenes that kept breaking me out of the my bubble of disbelief. Maybe it was because I knew I was watching Bjork. Maybe it was the "kill me, kill me, Selma" that wanted to make me laugh because I felt like the guy who was playing Bill didn't really know who the hell Bill was and played him like a cardboard cut-out.

I am Bill, I want Selma to kill me.kill me Selma, kill me.

like janet and mark. if anyone remembers janet and mark. two caucasion kids with plenty to learn about speaking in compound sentences. See Janet. See Mark. See Janet kill Mark. Kill Janet Kill!

so yeah, bring the kids, family entertainment for the entire family. at theatres everywhere.

The End.

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