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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

‘Dancer in the Dark’: A Sublime and Devastating Danish Musical-Drama from Lars Von Trier

Movie poster for the Danish film Dancer in the Dark starring Björk

“Dancer in the Dark” (2000) is a darkly enchanting musical-drama starring Icelandic singer Björk as Selma Jezkova, a Czech immigrant living in Washington State circa 1964. Working in a local factory and living a meager existence alongside her young son Gene (Vladica Kostic), Selma suffers from degenerative eye disease and is slowly going blind—yet remains devoted to cobbling together the funds necessary to save her son from a similar fate.

Dedicating much of her free time to a local theatrical production of “The Sound of Music”, Selma finds full self-expression through music and song—coming to life onstage and in subsequent musical dream sequences throughout the film. Her moments of fancy and fantasy deliver idealized disengagement from the increasingly nightmarish circumstances of her personal life, as false accusations and turns of mortal danger cloud her crumbling reality.

Written and directed by Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier (“Dogville ”, “Melancholia”), “Dancer in the Dark” displays shades of his celebrated Dogme 95 stylings (naturalism over artificiality), yet comes to full cinematic life in its lively and enchanting musical numbers, with Björk delivering a stunning, one-of-a-kind and once-in-a-lifetime performance. It's remarkably austere at times, yet despite it’s darkest of overtones the film succeeds immensely thanks to Von Trier’s gusto and his remarkable ability to balance bleak irony, absorbing drama and unbridled panache.


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