Starring: Bjork, Catherine Deneuve
Director: Lars Von Trier
IN Dancer in the Dark, Selma (Bjork) says, “In a musical nothing dreadful ever happens”. One hundred and forty minutes later we know how wrong she is.
Selma is a Czech immigrant to the USA. She rents a house from her next-door neighbour, Bill (David Morse), who is the local policeman. She works in a factory with Kathy (Catherine Deneuve) and saves every cent of her money so that her son Gene might have an eye operation.
Selma has a congenital eye disease. She is going blind. The doctors cannot restore her sight, but at puberty they can stop Gene from suffering the same fate. Selma’s only joy is performing in the local musical society. She is cast to play Maria in The Sound of Music.
Bill steals Selma’s money and Gene’s opportunity and Selma goes to desperate lengths to do what only a mother would do for her child.
In Dancer in the Dark, Lars von Trier has written and directed one of the year’s most gripping dramas. The mix of musical and dramatic genres works brilliantly.
This film is a harrowing tale of a survivor. Selma is at one turn a saint and at the next is manipulative, secretive and exploitative.
Dancer in the Dark is about sacrificial love, where parents will actually lay down their lives for their children. It is also another robust refutation of capital punishment.
Lars von Trier had a great success with Breaking the Waves. He sympathetically writes and directs women who are on the verge of mental collapse who cope by fleeing to mysticism.
Dancer in the Dark won the Palm D’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. It is not an easy night out at the cinema, but it is an immensely powerful one.