Dancer In The Dark – movie review

Dancer In The Dark is a film by Danish director Lars von Trier, who also directed Dogville. Like the movie Dogville, it explores the darker side of life in small town America.  The story revolves around the struggles of young Czechoslovakian mother names Selma,  who is working in a factory town in Washington State.  She lives in a trailer with her  12 year-old son, and works long hours at a dangerous factory job. The most distinguishing feature of Selma is her incredible thick and ugly glasses.

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But there is more to Selma than it first appears. She actually has 2 secret lives. Her first secret  is that she is slowly going blind and is hiding that  fact from everyone around her.  Her second secret is that she spends much of her time in a fantasy world of Hollywood musicals.

As she struggles through her tedious days she imagines she is in a musical. The film has a number of bizarre song and dance sequences, all of which take place in Selma’s imagination.  Selma is played by Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjork Guomundsdottir.

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The actors in this film are excellent.  They are part of a group of dedicated actors who are seen in mainstream movies, but who also always take the time to try new things in independent and experimental films.

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David Morse plays Bil Houston, a local cop who lives next door to Selma. He has secrets of his own. His charming wife (played by Cara Seymour) is spending money far faster than he can earn it, and he cannot bring himself to confront her.  He contemplates doing something very evil just to get the money he needs.

Both Dogville and Dancer In The Dark,  both destroy the American myth that somehow life is simpler and people are better in a small town.  We do not want to give away much more of the plot other than to say that the people of the town are faced with very tough moral choices. Some of them choose the good path and some do not.

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Of of the best performances in the film is by Siobhan Fallon who plays Brenda, a guard in the death-row section of the local prison. The tortured emotions of her character are so real it can bring an audience to tears.  Siobhan Fallon is a character actor you may remember from Men In Black, where her  husband’s body is taken over by the space monster. (By the way, Siobhan is a Gallic name, which is pronounced Sha-von).

This movie has some weird parts, but don’t turn it off half way through. The dramatic ending will be one you always remember.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

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