A Look Back: Dancer in the Dark (2000)

This is the second in a three-post series where I share my school reports from my first real film class, Film History. These were the first serious writings I did on film, and they offer a look back at the foundations that would eventually lead me to start writing reviews here at Silver Emulsion. I recently found them in a box while preparing to move, and I hope they are as entertaining to you as they are to me (they won’t be). These were written about twelve years ago during the Fall of the year 2000, when I was a spry nineteen years old. I will be re-creating the documents with the same formatting and images to the best of my abilities with the WordPress editor. Also, I’m leaving in any grammar errors or other things that I might want to change. It’s all about posterity and not falling into the George Lucas trap. Anyway, enjoy! Maybe.


Dancer in the Dark
A film by Lars Von Trier

Dancer in the Dark is not a film for everyone. It’s tone is dark. It’s all handheld digital video. There aren’t any big name stars in it. And it’s a musical. Any one of these factors would turn most mainstream people off to this film, even before stepping foot into the cinema. But those people that never see Dancer in the Dark will be missing out on what I feel to be the best new film I have seen this year.

I’ll start with the music. It’s as good a place to start as any. While watching the film, I had mixed feelings. I sorta liked/hated the music to begin with, I didn’t know what to think. I’m not a fan of Bjork’s music, or new music at all for that matter. It wasn’t until the second or third song that I really started to accept it. I did like the overture that opened the film though. I heard it (and the rest of the soundtrack) again recently, for the first time since I saw the film and my love of the movie soared to new heights. Images from the film filled my mind and I was overcome with emotion. I couldn’t believe how much I did in fact love the music and the movie.

It really blows my mind that I would be this into the film. I haven’t felt this passionate about a new movie in years! The handheld digital camera style isn’t exactly something I would endorse, but for some reason it works incredibly well in this film, creating an unmistakable sense of realism. But all I could think about when the film first started was the digital video and how I could tell that it was video. I was sitting there bitching about it in my head, thinking, “Oh God, I’m gonna have to sit through two and a half hours of this?” But as soon as I let that go and I got into the story, it took me over and I never looked back.

Another thing that really drew me into the film was Bjork’s performance as Selma. In fact, the acting all around was great, but especially Bjork. She completely embodied the role. Her face, her voice, everything about her became Selma. When I first heard she had won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival I thought they were all nuts over there, but after seeing her performance I couldn’t argue with their decision.

Upon returning to my car after the film, I found a parking ticket on my windshield. I was mad, but thanks to Dancer in the Dark a small bit of faith in new cinema had been restored that day, so I suppose it was worth it. In closing I’d like to mention a bit of coincidence that happened as I was driving in Hollywood right after seeing the film. I was hitting every green light and it was smooth sailing for quite a while. But suddenly, a stop light ahead turned red. I slowed to a stop and while waiting for the light to turn I looked at the street sign and you know what it said?

“Selma.”


Again, I remember thinking I was all hot shit when I finished this one. Reading it back, I have the shit part right, but it’s more of a room temperature. That incorrect usage of the apostrophe in “It’s” in sentence two is painful. This piece is pure emotion and nearly nothing else, which I guess is worth something as a time capsule, but it fails to leave any lasting impression. The film, however, remains one of my favorites of the modern era. Like the Passion of Joan of Arc post from Monday, reading this again makes me want to watch and review this one even more now.

2 comments to A Look Back: Dancer in the Dark (2000)

  • It’s oh… so…. quiet!

    Nice review, my man. Don’t worry too much about those annoying apostrophes! Even now, I still get those wrong from time to time. It annoys the hell out of me too!

    • Thanks! The annoying apostrophes are always going to annoy. It’s amazing how many wrong ones I put in when I write the first draft of the reviews and I’m just concerned with banging out whatever I can without thought to grammar.

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