Many people say a film is purely entertainment – that one shouldn’t have to think too hard. I partially agree with this viewpoint. However, when a film like Dancer in the Dark comes along, I tend to disagree.
The story concerns Bjork, a young mother, who has a low-paid job as a factory worker. She is slowly going blind, and lives as a miser, because she is saving up enough money to pay for an operation that will save him from suffering the same disease. After an argument with a neighbour, she finds herself imprisoned for murder. Nice subject for a musical!
The film is a vehicle for Bjork. And Bjork is impressive. Which is just as well, because she is on screen for practically all of the two and a half hours. Von Trier, director of Breaking the Waves, returns to more familiar territory with Dancer In The Dark, yet uses hand-held cameras for much of the film. The only sections using steady cameras are in Bjork’s dream musical sequences, which occur as her character tries to escape the torturous world she is living in.
Indeed, Cannes Film festival was both applauded and derided when it awarded Best Film and Best Actress award this year.
The cast is quite simply stunning, with Catherine Deneuve delivering a sure-fired performance, and Bjork herself demanding the unrequited attention of the viewer. The direction and camerawork are flawless, the script intellingent and realistic, and the choreography is just as assured as the film-musicals it is trying to remind you of.
This is not a happy, fun film. It is, however, one of the most beautiful, engrossing, and totally compelling films released in recent years. And to this moment, I have not found a single bad thing to say about it.
I will end this review by quoting Bjork. She says: “When I used to see a musical, I always used to leave the cinema before the last song, so that it could last forever”. Perhaps I should have left before the end.