|Dancer In The Dark|
|Directed by||Lars von Trier|
|Written by||Lars von Trier|
|Produced by||Vibeke Windeløv|
|Distributed by||Angel Films (Denmark)|
Les films du losange (France)
Constantin Film (Germany)
Istituto Luce (Italy)
Sandrew Metronome (Sweden)
FilmFour Distributors (United Kingdom)
Fine Line Features (United States)
(120 million kr)
|Box office||$45.6 million|
(416 million kr)
Dancer in the Dark is a 2000 musical melodrama film written and directed by Lars von Trier. It stars Icelandic musician Björk as a factory worker who suffers from a degenerative eye condition and is saving for an operation to prevent her young son from suffering the same fate. Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Cara Seymour, Peter Stormare, Siobhan Fallon Hogan and Joel Grey also star. The soundtrack for the film, Selmasongs, was written mainly by Björk, but a number of songs featured contributions from Mark Bell and some of the lyrics were written by von Trier and Sjón.
Dancer in the Dark is the third and final installment in von Trier's second trilogy "Golden Heart", following Breaking the Waves (1996) and The Idiots (1998). It was an international co-production among companies based in thirteen European and North American countries and regions. Like the first installment, it was shot with a handheld camera inspired by Dogme 95.
Dancer in the Dark premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival and got awarded the Palme d'Or, along with the Best Actress award for Björk. The film received generally positive reviews, with Björk's performance receiving universal acclaim and earning the singer her first Golden Globe nomination for her performance, though criticism was directed at the film's plot in terms of commonality.[clarification needed]
The song "I've Seen It All" performed and co-wrote by Björk, with Sjón and von Trier, were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, but lost to "Things Have Changed" by Bob Dylan from Wonder Boys.
In Washington state in 1964, Selma Ježková, a Czech immigrant, has moved to the United States with her 12-year-old son, Gene Ježek. They live a life of poverty as Selma works at a factory with her good friend Kathy, whom she nicknames Cvalda. She rents a trailer home on the property of local police officer Bill Houston and his wife, Linda. She is romantically pursued by the shy but persistent Jeff, who also works at the factory.
Selma is gradually losing her vision due to a degenerative eye condition, but still is saving money to pay for an operation that will prevent Gene from sharing her fate. She also takes part in rehearsals for a production of The Sound of Music and accompanies Kathy to the local cinema, where together they watch Hollywood musicals, as Kathy describes them to her.
In her day-to-day life, Selma slips into daydreams, imagining herself in a musical ("Cvalda"). Jeff and Kathy begin to realize that Selma's vision is worse than they thought, and that she has been memorizing eye charts in order to pass vision tests and keep her job. Bill reveals to Selma that Linda's excessive spending has put the couple's house in danger of foreclosure by their bank. He has contemplated suicide but cannot bring himself to carry out the act. Selma promises to keep his secret and confides in him about her advancing vision loss. Bill quietly stays without knowing that Selma still sees him and watches her hide her money in a tin.
The next day, Selma's boss Norman believes that her eye condition is deteriorated, resulted for her to resign and gives a last salary for her in order to give her job back when her eyes cured, which Kathy accused him of firing her. Not willing to take her job back, Jeff tries to escort her home by car, but she takes home with a train ("I've Seen It All"). She adds her last wages to the tin but discovers it to be empty. Realizing that Bill has robbed her, she goes to his house to confront him. Linda accuses Selma of trying to seduce her husband, explaining that Bill told her Selma wanted him for his money. Not wanting to reveal her knowledge of the impending foreclosure, Selma ignores Linda and confronts Bill about the theft. They fight over the money, with Bill drawing a gun only to be accidentally shot by Selma.
Bill yells for Linda to call the police, saying that Selma has tried to rob him, then begs Selma to kill him, telling her it is the only way she will ever reclaim her stolen money. Selma shoots Bill several times, but only wounds him further due to her poor vision, and finally beats him to death with a safe deposit box once the gun runs out of ammunition. She slips into a trance and imagines that Bill's corpse stands up and slow dances with her ("Smith & Wesson"). Taking her money back, she flees the house and pays for Gene's operation in advance.
Not knowing about the murder, Jeff takes Selma to rehearsal, where her director calls the police to have her arrested ("In the Musicals, Part 1"). In court, she is accused of being a Communist sympathizer and of pretending to be blind to exploit the American healthcare system. Although she tells as much truth about the situation as she can, she refuses to reveal Bill's secret, saying that she had promised not to. When her claim of sending all her money to her father in Czechoslovakia is proven false, she is convicted of murder and sentenced to death ("In the Musicals, Part 2"). Kathy and Jeff eventually figure out what happened and get back Selma's money, using it instead to pay for a trial lawyer who can free her. Selma refuses the lawyer, opting to face execution by hanging rather than let her son go blind, but she is deeply distraught as she awaits her death ("107 Steps"). As Selma begins to become distraught, she is secured to a board. Kathy runs in to tell her that the operation was successful, and that Gene will see to his grandfather, and gives Selma her son's glasses. Relieved, Selma sings a final song on the gallows with no musical accompaniment. The trap door opens, and she is hanged before she can finish the last verse, whose lines are displayed as the proceedings conclude ("New World").
The film's title suggests the Fred Astaire/Cyd Charisse duet "Dancing in the Dark" from the 1953 film The Band Wagon, which ties in with the film's musical theatre theme.
Actress Björk, who is known primarily as a contemporary musician, had rarely acted before, and described the process of making this film as so emotionally taxing that she would not act in any film ever again (although she appeared in Matthew Barney's film installation Drawing Restraint 9 in 2005, and in Robert Eggers' The Northman). Trier and others have described her performance as feeling rather than acting. Björk has said that it is a misunderstanding that she was put off acting by this film; rather, she never wanted to act but made an exception for Lars von Trier.
The musical sequences were filmed simultaneously with over 100 digital cameras so that multiple angles of the performance could be captured and cut together later, thus shortening the filming schedule.
Björk lies down on a stack of birch logs during the "Scatterheart" sequence. In Icelandic and Swedish, "björk" means "birch".
A Danish MY class locomotive and one T43 (both owned by Swedish train operator TÅGAB) were painted in the American Great Northern scheme for the film, and not repainted afterward.
Much of the film has a similar look to von Trier's earlier Dogme 95-influenced films: it is filmed on low-end, hand-held digital cameras to create a documentary-style appearance. It is not a true Dogme 95 film, however, because the Dogme rules stipulate that violence, non-diegetic music, and period pieces are not permitted. Trier differentiates the musical sequences from the rest of the film by using static cameras and by brightening the colours.
Main article: Selmasongs
Selmasongs: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack 'Dancer in the Dark is the first soundtrack album by Icelandic musician Björk. It was released on September 18, 2000, by One Little Indian Records to promote and accompany the film Dancer in the Dark. In the film, Björk starred as Selma Ježková, a Czech immigrant who has moved to the United States. The album features classical arrangements, as well as melodies and beats composed of sounds from mundane objects, such as factory machines and trains.
Notably, some songs on the album have lyrics that are substantially different from their lyrics in the film, the most pronounced example being "Scatterheart". The album omits the vocals of actors David Morse, Cara Seymour and Vladica Kostic. Some lyrics were rewritten, perhaps to prevent spoiling crucial plot details, since the soundtrack was released in stores before the movie opened in theaters, or to make the record flow better as a stand-alone album. In particular, on the song "I've Seen It All", Thom Yorke performs the words sung by Peter Stormare in the film. In addition, the tracks "My Favourite Things" and the original "Next to Last Song" do not appear on the album at all, despite appearances in the film.The track "I've Seen It All" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and was released as a promotional single in 2000. For the track, Björk made a "webeo" with director Floria Sigismondi that premiered on September 1, 2000, on MTV.com. It used a shorter version of the song that the singer recorded specifically for the webeo.
In October 2017, Björk, in the wake of dozens of sexual abuse cases brought against film producer Harvey Weinstein, posted on her Facebook page that she had been sexually harassed by a "Danish film director she worked with". She commented:
It was extremely clear to me when I walked into the actresses profession that my humiliation and role as a lesser sexually harassed being was the norm and set in stone with the director and a staff of dozens who enabled it and encouraged it. I became aware of that it is a universal thing that a director can touch and harass his actresses at will and the institution of film allows it. When I turned the director down repeatedly he sulked and punished me and created for his team an impressive net of illusion where I was framed as the difficult one. ... and in my opinion he had a more fair and meaningful relationship with his actresses after my confrontation so there is hope. Let's hope this statement supports the actresses and actors all over. Let's stop this. There is a wave of change in the world.
The Los Angeles Times found evidence identifying him as Lars von Trier. Von Trier has rejected Björk's allegation that he sexually harassed her during the making of the film Dancer in the Dark, and said "That was not the case. But that we were definitely not friends, that's a fact", to Danish daily Jyllands-Posten in its online edition. Peter Aalbæk Jensen, the producer of Dancer in the Dark, told Jyllands-Posten that "as far as I remember we [Lars von Trier and I] were the victims. That woman was stronger than both Lars von Trier and me and our company put together. She dictated everything and was about to close a movie of 100m kroner [$16m]". After von Trier's statement, Björk explained the details about this incident:
In the spirit of #metoo I would like to lend women around the world a hand with a more detailed description of my experience with a Danish director. It feels extremely difficult to come out with something of this nature into the public, especially when immediately ridiculed by offenders. I fully sympathise with everyone who hesitates, even for years. But I feel it is the right time especially now when it could make a change. Here comes a list of the encounters that I think count as sexual harassment:
- After each take the director ran up to me and wrapped his arms around me for a long time in front of all crew or alone and stroked me sometimes for minutes against my wishes.
- When after 2 months of this i said he had to stop the touching, he exploded and broke a chair in front of everyone on set. Like someone who has always been allowed to fondle his actresses. Then we all got sent home.
- During the whole filming process there were constant awkward paralysing unwanted whispered sexual offers from him with graphic descriptions, sometimes with his wife standing next to us.
- While filming in Sweden, he threatened to climb from his room's balcony over to mine in the middle of the night with a clear sexual intention, while his wife was in the room next door. I escaped to my friends room. This was what finally woke me up to the severity of all this and made me stand my ground.
- Fabricated stories in the press about me being difficult by his producer. This matches beautifully the Weinstein methods and bullying. I have never eaten a shirt. Not sure that is even possible.
- I didn't comply or agree on being sexually harassed. That was then portrayed as me being difficult. If being difficult is standing up to being treated like that, i'll own it.
Let's break this curse.
Björk's manager, Derek Birkett, has also accused von Trier's actions in the past:
I have worked with Björk for over 30 years and have never made a single statement or interview regarding our work together. This time is different.
I have read the lies written by Lars and his producer Peter about Björk – and feel compelled to speak out and put the record straight. Over the last 30 years, the Dancer in the Dark project is the one and only time she has fallen out with a collaborator.
This was a result of the directors ongoing, disrespectful verbal and physical abuse which continued after both Björk and myself demanded that he stop behaving this way. Björk completed the film out of respect for the cast and everyone involved. I feel compelled to publicly speak out in fierce support of Björk in regards to her terrible experiences working with Lars Von Trier, and I back what she has said 110%.
The Guardian later found that Jensen's studio, Zentropa, with which von Trier frequently collaborated, had an endemic culture of sexual harassment. Jensen stepped down from CEO position of Zentropa as further harassment allegations came to light in 2017.
At the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Dancer in the Dark earned positive reviews from 69% of 121 critics, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The critics consensus on the website reads, "Dancer in Dark can be grim, dull, and difficult to watch, but even so, it has a powerful and moving performance from Björk and is something quite new and visionary". According to Metacritic, which assigned the film a weighted average score of 63/100 based on 33 critic reviews, the film received "generally favorable reviews".
On The Movie Show, Margaret Pomeranz gave it five stars while David Stratton gave it a zero, a score shared only by Geoffrey Wright's Romper Stomper (1992). Stratton later described it as his "favourite horror film". Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian dubbed Dancer in the Dark the "most shallow and crudely manipulative" film of 2000, and in 2009 he described it as "one of the worst films, one of the worst artworks and perhaps one of the worst things in the history of the world".
The film was praised for its stylistic innovations. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote: "It smashes down the walls of habit that surround so many movies. It returns to the wellsprings. It is a bold, reckless gesture". Edward Guthmann from the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "It's great to see a movie so courageous and affecting, so committed to its own differentness". However, criticism was directed at its storyline. Jonathan Foreman of the New York Post described the film as "meretricious fakery" and called it "so unrelenting in its manipulative sentimentality that, if it had been made by an American and shot in a more conventional manner, it would be seen as a bad joke". Fiachra Gibbons, writing for The Guardian, considered the film to be "the most unusual, extraordinary feel-good musical ever made".
In 2016, David Ehrlich ranked Dancer in the Dark as one of the best films of the 21st century, hailing Björk's performance as the "single greatest feat of film acting" since 2000. Björk's performance is also ranked in the "25 Best Performances Not Nominated for an Oscar of the 21st Century" list. Mia Goth credited the performance as one of her main influences, dubbing it "perfect" and "faultless".
It grossed $45.6 million worldwide, including $4.2 million in the United States and Canada. It was number one at the Japanese box office for three weeks.
Dancer in the Dark premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival and was awarded the Palme d'Or, along with the Best Actress award for Björk. The song "I've Seen It All" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, at the performance of which Björk wore her famous swan dress.
Sight & Sound magazine conducts a poll every ten years of the world's finest film directors to find out the Ten Greatest Films of All Time. This poll has been going since 1952, and has become the most recognised poll of its kind in the world. In 2012, Cyrus Frisch was one of the four directors who voted for Dancer in the Dark. Frisch commented: "A superbly imaginative film that leaves conformity in shambles". Director Oliver Schmitz also lauded the work as "relentless, claustrophobic, the best movie about capital punishment as far as I'm concerned".
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Academy Awards||25 March 2001||Best Original Song||"I've Seen It All" – Björk, Lars von Trier, Sjón||Nominated|||
|Bodil Awards||2001||Best Danish Film||Lars von Trier||Nominated|||
|Cannes Film Festival||May 2000||Palme d'Or||Lars von Trier||Won|||
|César Awards||24 February 2001||Best Foreign Film||Lars von Trier||Nominated|||
|European Film Awards||2 December 2000||Best Film||Lars von Trier||Won|||
|Best Director – People's Choice||Lars von Trier||Won|
|Best Actress – People's Choice||Björk||Won|
|Independent Spirit Awards||March 2001||Best Foreign Film||Lars von Trier||Won|||
|Golden Globes||21 January 2001||Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama||Björk||Nominated|||
|Best Original Song||"I've Seen It All" – Björk, Lars von Trier, Sjón||Nominated|
|Goya Awards||2001||Best European Film||Lars von Trier||Won|||
Bjork vowed never to act again after making Dancer in the Dark in 2000, despite winning a best actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Right now, I feel very strong about focusing on music
((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
Xan Brooks leads a critics' roundtable on the highs and lows, the sublime to the ridiculous at the 2009 Cannes film festival, before sailing into the sunset. See video at 8:20.
Singer Bjork amazing in von Trier's tragedy
Despite 2 Good Performances, 'Dancer' Is Just Fakery with an Anti-american Drum To Beat