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Dancer in the Dark

355 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Dancer In The Dark (DVD)

Bjork stars in Lars von Trier's powerful film about a youn woman in rural America who, facing blindness, escapes into the fantasy world of Hollywood musicals.


Masterpiece or masquerade? Lars von Trier's digicam musical split the critics in two when it debuted at Cannes in 2000. There were those who saw it as a cynical shock-opera from a manipulative charlatan, others wept openly at its scenes of raw emotion and heart-rending intensity. There is, however, no in-between. Dancer in the Dark is that rarest of creatures, a film that dares to push viewers to the limits of their feelings.

In her first and most probably last screen performance (she has foresworn acting after her bruising on-set rows with von Trier), brittle Icelandic chanteuse Björk plays Selma, a Czech immigrant living in a folksy American small town with her young son, Gene. Selma is going blind and so will Gene if she does not arrange an important operation for him. To cover the expense, Selma works every hour she can, cheating on her eye tests so she can keep working at the local factory long after her vision has become too unreliable to work safely. She sublets a house from a local cop, Bill (David Morse), and his wife, Linda (Cara Seymour). When nearly bankrupt Bill asks Selma for a loan, she refuses, but he later returns and steals the money, which she demands back in a furious confrontation. In the ensuing melee, Bill is fatally shot and Selma is arrested and put on trial. Will justice prevail?

Von Trier's passionate, provocative film runs all our emotional resources dry with suspense, giving us occasional flashes into Selma's gold heart and mind with superb song-and-dance numbers she conjures to banish the nightmare (Björk also wrote the score). At some two-and-a-half hours, it's not for lightweights, but anyone bored with today's smug, "ironic" cinema will relish this as an astonishing assault on the senses and a stark reminder of von Trier's uncompromising talent. --Damon Wise

Special Features

  • Two feature length commentaries
  • Two original documentaries: "100 Cameras: Capturing Lars Von Trier's Vision" and "Choreography: Creating Vincent Paterson's Dance Sequences"

Product Details

  • Directors: Lars von Trier
  • Writers: Lars von Trier
  • Producers: Vibeke Windeløv, Lars Jönsson, Marianne Slot
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: February 8, 2005
  • Run Time: 141 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (355 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00003CXKS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,574 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Dancer in the Dark" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Peter Imes on April 10, 2001
Format: DVD
First of all, I can't even believe this film was made and distributed to so many theaters. Don't get me wrong-- I think it may be one of the best movies I have ever seen, but it is SO much different than anything else I can hardly believe someone picked it up to produce and distribute.
The movie doesn't know if it is a documentary, drama or musical, but somehow it pulls off being all three. The story is that of a Czech immigrant who works and exists only to pay for a surgery to correct in her son a genetic disease that will eventually render him blind. The acting in the entire film is flawless and it is cast perfectly. The camera angles and visuals were stunning and the soundtrack (by Bjork) is enchanting.
I must disagree with other reviewers on a couple of points. The first being that this is a "predictable story" of a character "too weak-willed to defend herself from the forces of 'darkness' enveloping her miserable life". The will of Selma is incredible. Out of guilt from bringing her son into the world, knowing he will inherit the same blinding disease she has, and pure love Selma dedicates her life to saving money to pay for the surgery. She sacrifices everything save occasional viewings of musicals which provide her the sanity she needs to continue. Even when put to the ultimate test- death- she continues. The second point is that there are no happy scenes. Completely false. The sheer beauty of Selma's mission and the musicals she produces in her head define love and happiness respectively. The end of the movie (I won't spoil it for you) is sad but at the same time happy in that Bjork has found her piece after being wronged in so many ways.
The first 20 minutes are painfuly slow, but everything comes together. Wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but if you are a fan of "art" films or Indies, definately watch it.
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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful By C. Copeland on May 25, 2005
Format: DVD
Genre: Drama, Musical

Genre Grade: A+

Final Grade: A+

This is possibly the most depressing movie I've ever seen. It rips you apart over and over again, without any hint of a happy ending. It's about as far from cliche Hollywood as can be, something Lars von Trier is known for. Bjork is an incredible, wonderful actress and I'd love to see her in a happier role, but she has sworn she will never be in another movie because of the emotional difficulties caused from her role in this film.

I am warning you, this movie will madden you, sadden you, and depress the hell out of you. I recommend it to audiences who appreciate art films. It is a musical (great way of challenging the sadness of the film), but mostly it is just a drama about losing everything you could possibly lose for the sake of love and compassion.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Attilla The Honey on September 20, 2000
"Dancer In The Dark" is the stunning film by Lars von Trier that won this year's Cannes Film Festival and stars Icelandic alterna-pop queen Bjork in her film debut. Set in 1964, Bjork plays a woman from Czechoslovakia named Selma who imagines that she is inside of a Hollywood Musical. This musical is not a happy perfect-world musical as so many others are, but packs a stinging bite and a Sondheim-esque dark side. Early on, the conflicts start piling up: Selma's son will go blind if she can't afford to pay for an operation, and her next door neighbor stals all the money she's been trying to save. Then, she is yanked from an small production of "The Sound Of Music" when she is faced with murder charges, and she winds up in prison.
As Selma's life gets worse and worse, she retreats farther and farther into her musical-comedy daydreams. She imagines that a celebrity is her father and she's not poor; she imagines herself dancing with the man she's accused of killing. Although Bjork's acting is superb, she has said that she does not want to act again. She said she wants to be a "person of the ears", not a "person of the images".
The soundtrack to this film is also done by Bjork. Although the soundtrack its self is rather short (clocking in at a scant 33 minutes), it's lack of duration is made up for in abundance by it's beauty, passion, and intensity. The songs are a strange mix of lush orchestral work and heavy industrial beats. Although it sounds like a strange combination, it is a perfect blend for this film.
As a lover of musical theatre, especially motion picture musicals, it is so refreshing to see a new musical being premiered on the screen that isn't trying to live up to it's own tired broadway run.
Read more ›
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kelly C. Shaw on October 8, 2000
Verified Purchase
Lars von Trier's masterpiece is nothing less than brilliant, as it begins with a provocative ink blot, and a rising overture produced by the movie's star Bjork, that maps out the vicissitudes of the next two hours. Von Trier's hand-held digital camera rumbles through Selma's(Bjork) drab world - as she is suffering from a degenerative eye disease - and treats the audience to close-ups and zoom shots of the disgruntled or jovial Bjork, a la Bergman. Von Trier's unstable camera is the trade mark of his Dogma 95 movement, which stresses austerity and denies film contrivances. However, what escalates this film beyond other von Trier masterpieces (Breaking The Waves), is its use of over 100 steadi-cams in the filming of Selma's musical fantasies, which are extraordinary. This inextricable blend of camera styles is what makes the film so aesthetically beautiful. The contrived fantastical music skits are impeccably choreographed and balanced perfectly with Selma's abject reality; they are also used to further drive the story or reveal character's emotions. Von Trier seems to be poking fun at the Hollywood musicals, while simultaneously celebrating and paying homage to them. Selma is a character that any dreamer can relate to, and by the finale "Darkness" seems to be the only plausible choice for her, since her musical fantasies were viewed in "Dark" movie theaters where she is most happy. A movie unmatched by any, and unlike anything ever put to celluloid. As seminal as Intolerance, Kane, and 2001? I think so!
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