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Dancer in the Dark
3 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Lars von Trier

Written By:
Lars von Trier

Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Peter Stormare, Cara Seymour, Joel Grey, Jean-Marc Barr, Udo Kier, Zeljko Ivanek, Bjork, Vincent Paterson, Vladica Kostic

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Dancer in the Dark (2000)
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Movie Review by Jannika
September 27th, 2006

Let me say first that I'm Danish/American. Many non-American directors can make movies that capture the essence of America so well you would never know they weren't born and raised here. Sadly, Lars is not one of them. He barely understands the English language, and he certainly doesn't understand America. So why does he persist with his preachy, pretentious movies, and why do so many Americans listen to him?

*spoilers ahead*

Many people were so moved by Dancer that they can't bring themselves to watch it again, calling it the saddest movie they've ever seen. I appreciate movies that incite, move, and provoke thought, but it disturbs me to hear people say that a movie almost drove them to suicide, especially one so... contrived.

Lars has no respect for the audience, and has great fun seeing how far he can push it. It's entirely possible to enjoy and admire his work, but I maintain a healthy distance and a cynical attitude.

Take Dancer in the Dark, for instance. The story tried way too hard to manipulate me and wasn't believable enough to elicit much sympathy. It didn't capture America, it seemed very, well, European. There were too many holes in the story, and Selma was far too innocent and put-upon, to the point she wouldn't even defend herself to the court.

Björk's performance as the endearing, innocent Selma was truly remarkable, however. She looked and acted very much like a person with a mild case of Down's Syndrome, although I don't know if this was intentional. Lars has a way of getting the absolute best out of his actors, Emily Watson's first screenrole in Breaking The Waves comes to mind.

Dancer was the third in his "Golden Triangle" of movies about females who sacrifice themselves, and I'd like to see him move on from the mentally impaired, naive or child-like girls as victims theme. Some assert that he believes most women are masochists, and perhaps he does, but it's more likely he uses this as an instrument to pluck our heartstrings.

I also saw it as a hyperbolic anti-death penalty indictment, but using Selma as 'Innocent Executed Person' simply didn't wash. For one thing, there hasn't been a single proven case of this, and when is the last time anyone was actually hung in this country? I can respect anyone being against the death penalty, but at least get the facts straight and present a better argument. Not that facts have ever stopped Lars before, and I'm not sure this is any of his business anyway.

As usual, handheld cameras are used that sweep and swoosh except during the musical numbers, so if that bothers you, beware. The movie's opening sequence is a lengthy succession of quite beautiful artwork set to music, which was enjoyable and different.

Despite my criticism I sort of liked the film, but it was about as believable as Catherine Deneuve was as a factory worker.

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