Movie Review: Dancer in the Dark (2000)

In 2019 I found some old Word documents with movie reviews I wrote back before I had a blog. I’m posting each review backdated to the day I wrote it.

Title: Dancer in the Dark
Release Date: December 8, 2000
Director: Lars von Trier
Production Company: Zentropa Entertainments | Canal+ | FilmFour | France 3 Cinéma

One of those movies that makes you just want to curl up and die.  Pop musician Bjork plays a Czechoslavakian immigrant and single mother named Selma living in rural Washington in 1964.  She has a degenerative disease that is making her go blind, but she keeps this secret so that she can continue to work in the local factory as well as doing odd jobs on her own time to save up money so her son may get surgery that would prevent him from going blind.  This fable of a mother’s love going to the extremes does seem a bit far-fetched at times, but we’re given the perception that Selma is a woman of great integrity.  Selma’s only escape is through her love of Hollywood musicals, and more and more frequently as her situation in the movie deteriorates into greater suffering we see her in imagined musical settings.  The musical numbers themselves are, well, odd.  Not quite parody, I would say, but perhaps a line of dialogue spoken by one of the characters in the film “ordinary people don’t break out into singing and dancing” explains why the characters do not sing or dance well, and the songs contain rather pedestrian lyrics.  But the musical numbers do have their own certain charm and offer insight into Selma’s mind.  The later part of the film is both really depressing, but also overly manipulative as we learn that much of what Selma says and does early in the film is used to discredit her character as she is tried and put to death for murder.  And I won’t even go into the murder scene itself, as it was unspeakably disturbing to watch.  It’s arty and tends to drag a bit but worth watching as it is both beautifully filmed and thought-provoking.

Rating: ***