Main cast: Björk (Selma Ježková), Catherine Deneuve (Cathy), David Morse (Bill Houston), Peter Stormare (Jeff), and Jean-Marc Barr (Norman)
Director: Lars Von Trier
God, what a depressing and manipulative movie. Yes, Lars Von Trier thinks that all modern movie gimmicks (lightings, special effects, et cetera) are hacks, but that does not excuse him shooting Dancer in the Dark using a grainy hand camera. I almost threw up on my popcorns in the three hours of depression that is this latest punish-the-women movie. Not that I have any appetite to eat the popcorns anyway.
This movie is about Selma Ježková, a Czech immigrant slowly going blind from a genetic disorder. Still, she works to save money for her son, who is suffering from the same condition. An airy-fairy woman who goes around as if she is high on some drugs all the time, she nonetheless gets into trouble when her landlord Bill accuses her of stealing his money. A melodramatic court case ensues.
The film has a prize in Björk: the camera is obviously in love with her pixie, delicate face. When this Icelander singer smiles, the screen gets a well-needed lighting-up. But her natural charisma is no match for the director’s manipulative and derivative storytelling.
For instance, he bloats Selma’s sufferings. You think concentration camps are bad? You haven’t seen the factory Selma works at. To top it off, this practically blind woman has to cross a railway track every day to get to work. Then she decides to work the night shift. Yes – this means I get lots of oooooo scenes of Selma trying to cross a railway track at night. How noble is a woman suffering! Mr Von Trier obviously has issues with his mother.
Selma is not a sympathetic character. Yes, one can say she is going blind and hence her live-the-day philosophy. But her actions can end up killing her and leaving her son alone in this world. The stupid court case in the last part of this movie is soap opera masquerading as a “grand art” film only film school people can wax lyrical about.
In eschewing Hollywood’s fancy flashy gimmicks, Mr Von Trier resorts to the oldest trick in his profession: melodrama. Worse, unnecessary, bloated, arrogant melodrama. Dancer in the Dark is Björk’s movie: too bad it is this movie.