Friday, May 30, 2014

Indie Review: Dancer in the Dark (2000)

                              A Musical That May Not Make You Feel Like 'Dancing'

                   What kind of director would take a musical film which would normally make you feel like dancing and make the feeling of watching it like a knife slowly stabbing you in the ribs? Lars Von Trier, one of our most visionary directors alive today, would and he does it in such a beautiful yet haunting way.

                   Dancer in the Dark is about a Czech immigrant named Selma Jezkova (Bjork) who is slowly going blind and is saving money for a surgery for her son in order for him to not suffer the same fate. Selma works at a factory and when things begin to turn stressful or mundane, she drifts off to her imagination and everything turns into a musical.  When Selma gets into a conflict with her landlord Bill (David Morse), then Selma sees her life turn into a downward spiral and she realizes how reality is much harsher than the Hollywood musical she imagined life in America to be like.

                  What I Liked About It:
                The thing that I loved the most about this film can be summed up in one word: Bjork. Good. Freaking. GOD. Bjork just blew my mind with her phenomenal and multi-layered performance. She brings magic that will make you smile during the musical scenes yet has a haunting vulnerability that will just break your heart. In the final scene, she takes her musical magic and vulnerability and molds them together as she brings teardrops from your eyes. There are even scenes where she smiles to hide her pain.  One of the best performances I've ever seen in my entire life.

                Now onto the direction from Lars Von Trier. What can I say? The man is a visionary artist. He takes different genres and with his films, makes them his own. Here, he takes the musical genre and breathes new life into it. During the musical scenes, he never even ditches the handheld camera that is used throughout the filming of this movie. In fact, during those scenes, he uses much brighter lighting in order to incorporate the fantasy and dream elements while still retaining the film's realism.

               Another thing I want to point out is how some of the songs have a more underlying tragedy. One of them called "I've Seen It All" has Selma singing about how despite the fact she is going blind, there is nothing left for her to see. There is even a scene where Selma is singing "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music, which is normally a happy song, and when she sings it, it still gets pretty sad as it isn't in a dream sequence. Now that I think about it, that scene shows how Selma isn't able to "sing" her way out of the situation she is in and how she has tragically become more grounded in reality.

             What I Didn't Like About It:

            Overall, Dancer in the Dark is a haunting and heartbreaking musical drama that features a breathtaking performance from Bjork. Despite how heart-wrenching it is, I would still recommend it to those who love musicals as well. If you don't like musicals, then you would probably still like this movie as there isn't singing and dancing throughout. Even though it is a very artistic film, I wouldn't say it is one of those you have to analyze when you are watching it, so even though it is a hard watch, it is still technically an easy watch.

Grade: A+