Dancer in the Dark

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
Director/Writer:Lars von Trier
Fine Line Features; NR; 134 minutes
Cast:Bjork, Catherine Deneuve, Joel Grey

The only person I've ever known named Lars was a highschooler. He wore a faded army jacket, giggled at the profane, and was the kind of person who threw Alka-Seltzer at the birds in hopes of killing them mid-flight. Thinking back, he's not terribly unlike Lars von Trier, director of Dancing in the Dark. It's an outrageous combination of inspired musical fantasy and grinding Dogma-style realism framed by the angular edges of von Trier's self-conscious style. The mix is harder to swallow than his previous work, Breaking the Waves. Once again, von Trier gravitates the drama onto a troubled, saintly working-class woman. This time it's Icelandic pop sensation, Bjork. Breaking the Waves' Emily Watson registered more emotional depth, but Dancing in the Dark is lofted up by Bjork's empathetic performance, just as sure as it is periodically shot down by von Trier's pathetic judgment.

Bjork plays Selma, a Czech immigrant in America who works long factory hours as her vision slowly fades. Her son needs an eye operation and she needs to fund it. If he doesn't receive treatment before his 13th birthday, he'll be destined for blindness—just like his mom. Selma must also contend with an unwieldy murder trial and a thieving cop landlord. For escape, Selma dreams herself into elaborate musical fantasies where Bjork's impressive vocal cords get a workout. The combination is lurid and mesmerizing or maybe just lurid. Either way, Dancing in the Dark intrigues, and will surely strengthen Bjork's standing among her many fans.

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