What makes “Dancer in the dark” stand out is that with her eyesight deserting her, Selma’s attention turns to the world of musicals, coming alive whenever she feels a beat or hears a song, immersing herself completely in a world where she is the star of Busby Berkley like spectaculars.
This Icelandic musical starred Bjork and Catherine Deneuve and was released in 2001 to polarized reviews, love or hate it. Bjork plays Selma, a poor Czech émigré living in a small town on the Northwest of the states. Set in 1964, this is the story of how she is desperately trying to cure her son from the genetic illness that will eventually render him blind. The syndrome has already progressed with her and her eyesight is now failing. Selma is hardly in a position to fund the operation, surviving usually on the kindness of the local community but nevertheless she is determined to raise the money somehow.
What makes “Dancer in the dark” stand out is that with her eyesight deserting her, Selma’s attention turns to the world of musicals, coming alive whenever she feels a beat or hears a song, immersing herself completely in a world where she is the star of Busby Berkley like spectaculars…all on a budget of course. Bjork just shines during these scenes, indeed she gives a magnificently real performance throughout the film, something she should really have won an award for. See the film for her if nothing else, you’ll be amazed.
Director Von Trier has pulled out all the stops using incredibly inventive and fluid cinematography to portray the real and the imagined worlds thatSelma exists in. Selma is an incredibly likeable character a kind heart to a fault, someone who would do anything for you. Catherine Deneuve is also excellent as the friend who has made it her mission in life to be Selma’s eyes. It’s an odd pairing on screen but one that works. This isn’t a sentimental film though some sequences will leave you in tears (unless you are made of stone or a psychopath) and the emotional rollercoaster takes in a host of other emotions too, giving a rich texture to this masterpiece and a very rewarding viewing experience. The simplicity of the storyline is one of the film’s greatest strengths.
It’s not perfect, there are times when the movie is very manipulative with the audience’s emotions, sometimes a little too heavily so, and some of Selma’s choices, particularly towards the end when she is in court seem a little peculiar but then Selma is a peculiar character. The ending is as affecting as anything else you will see this year and for Bjork if nothing else, this is a must see. You’ll either love it or hate it!
Awards: European Film Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, Golden Globes, Cannes Film Festival, Robert Festival, Awards of the Japanese Academy, Blue Ribbon Awards, Edda Awards, Goya Awards, National Board of Review, Online Film Critics Society Awards, Russian Guild of Film Critics, Satellite Awards, Turia Awards
Nominations: Brit Awards, Cinema Writers Circle Awards, César Awards, Academy Awards, Robert Festival, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, Online Film Critics Society Awards, Blue Ribbon Awards, Chlotrudis Awards, Golden Trailer Awards, Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards, Motion Picture Sound Editors, Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards, Satellite Awards