Dancer In The Dark
***.5 GM
Starring: Bjork, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Peter Stormare, Udo Kier, Cara Seymour, Siobhan Fallon


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Bjork is a strange human being, no doubt about that. But whether her oddities are considered lovable and interesting or bizarre and frightening will most likely make or break this film for the viewer. It is apparently possible to like this film without appreciating Bjork at all, but it'll be infinitely easier to get into if you don't view her as some nightmarish elf-child goblin, which I must admit is an understandable reaction. Since I kinda like her style, I was able to get into this film more thoroughly, although not as much as I may have if I was in a darkened theater rather than on a couch watching a television with people who can't stand the little imp.

Bjork is Selma, an immigrant to the United States in 1964 with a crap job, a love of musicals and a son that's threatened with the same illness that's causing her to go blind. She's saving up money for an operation to save her son's eyesight, but it's hard work and endless toil to do so, which is made harder by her tendency to daydream away from her life's dreariness and the fact that her lack of sight is threatening her ability to actually earn her money. She's got friends looking out for her, she always hopes for the best and she'd never harm another soul. Which is, of course, why horrible shit keeps happening to her.

The film is a testament to the power of music to make the worst of lives a bit more bearable (which explains all those people out there claiming Kurt Cobain and P-Diddy saved their lives), but it's also a testament to the fact that dreamers can dream all they want, life is still going to beat them down and the best intentions don't count for anything when it comes to who gets the luck and who doesn't. It's depressing as hell... a woman who wants nothing more than to get by, expects nothing but decency from everyone and who just tries to soldier on in spite of the odds winds up getting drowned in the quagmire anyway, but her ability to find music in the most minute sounds and extrapolate it into something to take her away from her miserable circumstances, at least for a little while, helps her to remain noble and self-sacrificing until the very end, consequences be damned.

Maybe long, drawn-out executions of the innocent get to me, and the argument could be made that it's a manipulative plot construct, but the final scene is a powerful one that manages to be sudden even after drawing things out so long. It's a musical tragedy, which is something that isn't done very much because it usually doesn't work. This could probably be considered the exception that proves the rule. The songs themselves are kinda like Bjork music - they can be fun and interesting and occasionally cross the line into grating. The characters around Selma seem to be not entirely fleshed out, but the tragedy of Selma's life is powerful enough to look past this.

Life can be awful - you can cope by either trying to be a decent person and getting the shaft for your trouble, or turning into a jackass and becoming part of the problem. Yay, team.

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