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DANCER IN THE DARK
2000 - Lars von Trier
Denmark
112
Opening Shot

Dancer in the Dark begins with an old-fashioned, David Lean style "Overture", over the fading images of a series of expressionistic paintings, capturing the films importance of sound and of sight. We are then taken into the film with a quick cut to the protagonist rehearsing a play (title card indicates it is set in Washington State 1964).

The Film

The impact of Dancer in the Dark can not easily (or fairly) be described with words. I do know, that the first viewing of the film was an emotional experience of sadness, joy, and heartbreak never to be forgotten for me. Here is a rare film that boldly and respectfully combines the musical genre with bleak melodrama. The results are a captivating and glorious cinematic achievement. Dancer In The Dark is one of the most emotionally moving films you'll ever experience. Shot in handheld digital video, Lars Von Trier uses multiple camera angles and quick cuts, which may frustrate some viewers. However, this film is more about emotional impact then it is about it's filmmaking (not that the filmmaking is poor, but rather the emotional impact is huge). The force of the film comes from the performance of Selma, played by the incomparable Bjork. Through this amazing performance, we see how much pain she manages to hide during the spectacular musical sequences, and how much joy she manages to hide during the pain of her situation. Already a brilliant musical artist, here Bjork displays a passionate and embracing versatility. A truly heartbreaking film that will pull you in emotionally to the point you feel involved in the movie. Like all Von Trier's work, this may not be for everyone and it can be a challenging if not difficult experience, but it rates among my personal favorites films ever made and I will continuously cherish the phenomenal and determined performance from Bjork, as well as her unforgettable 'Selma Songs'.

The Filmmaker

Since his debut feature film (1987's The Element of Crime) Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier has been one of the most acclaim and well known filmmakers in the world (he's won at Cannes for 4 different films). Not only known for his controversial films and experimental vision, Von Trier is also well known for his difficulty (and dislike?) with actors as well as his opinionated views. Looking to impact the face of cinema, Von Trier joined with a few Danish filmmakers (most notably Thomas Vinterberg) to establish a group called 'Dogme 95'. Dogme 95 was set as an agreement to follow several rules / restrictions of filmmaking (including only shooting films on location, with natural light, natural sound, and a handheld camera). Some called Dogme a gimmick or self-promotion, but it did represent Von Trier's experimental nature as a filmmaker. Though many of his films capture the Dogme style and approach, Von Trier essentially only made one true Dogme film (The Idiots in 1998). Von Trier is brilliant when working with melodrama. His raw filmmaking style combined with extreme and bold narratives as well as an ability to always get incredible performances, result in deeply absorbing and powerful films. His two masterpieces (Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves) feature two of the most amazing performances (from Bjork and Emily Watson) and leave the viewer so involved within the power and emotions of the narrative that they never forget the experience. Von Trier continues to experiment with the boundaries of filmmaking as he his currently shooting the final film of his controversial ''USA - Land of Opportunities' trilogy (which began with the outstanding 2003 Dogville). The final film is said to incorporate the two actresses (Nicole Kidman and Bryce Dallas Howard) to both play Grace.

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Resources
trailer (youtube)      
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