Dancer in the Dark

YOU DON’T NEED EYES TO SEE. 

In 1964, Czech immigrant Selma Ježková (Björk), who’s nearly blind, is working in the U.S. to save money for her son’s eye surgery, but eventually ends up on death row. Lars von Trier’s musical, made in Sweden, set in the U.S. and starring Icelandic singer Björk, polarized audiences and critics at the time. But this bundle of strong emotions is truly an original piece of cinema, with a raw look and feel; the musical numbers should attract more than just fans of Björk. This is her first movie, but she turned out to be a natural as Selma, a woman who’s only truly happy when she sings and dances in the musicals of her mind. Uneven, but ultimately powerful. 

2000-Denmark-Sweden-France. 137 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Vibeke Windelöw. Written and directed by Lars von Trier. Cinematography: Robby Müller. Music: Björk. Song: ”I’ve Seen It All” (Björk, Lars von Trier, Sjón Sigurdsson). Cast: Björk (Selma Ježková), Catherine Deneuve (Kathy), David Morse (Bill Houston), Peter Stormare, Joel Grey, Vincent Patterson… Udo Kier, Stellan Skarsgård.

Trivia: Skarsgård was originally supposed to have done Stormare’s part, but only found time for a smaller role. This is the last part of the director’s “Golden Heart” trilogy, after Breaking the Waves (1996) and The Idiots (1998).

Cannes: Palme d’Or, Best Actress (Björk). European Film Awards: Best Film, Actress (Björk).

Last word: “This about the blindness came much later, after I wrote the first script. I was thinking in more opera terms. Opera is more like melodrama. And the good thing about opera is that if you can accept that people sing instead of talk, then you don’t have to go in and out of it. And that means you can have your emotions with you. The problem about a musical is that it’s a little hard to swallow that suddenly they’re like dum-dee-dee-dum-dum this is always a little difficult. Whereas in on opera, they play all the time. But a more honorable way to do it, the way I have done, is to use her imagination to go in and out of it.” (Von Trier, Indiewire)

 

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