Dancer in the Dark

Director: Lars von Trier
Year Released: 2000
Rating: 2.0

It's probably the most controversial movie of the year, with one group arguing that its "reprehensible in every conceivable way" and the other claiming it's one of the best films of the year. I didn't like it, but not with the vehemence some of its detractors possess - I admire von Trier as a filmmaker and director who crafts unique hand-held quasi-documentary views of troubled people. His use of digital video is used in Dancer in the Dark to shoot the "musical" numbers - the scenes where factory worker Selma (Bjork, surprisingly good), who is going blind from some rare eye disorder, imagines she is in some Hollywood/Gene Kelly tap dancing extravaganza in order to escape the stark reality of condition. Its touches like these - when the film breaks into experimental mode - that the film soars, and the choreography is fantastic. But the length of the picture, the plot contrivances and overblown melodrama (especially the last sequence) kill any and all impact the performances and overall uniqueness provide. A key scene in the middle that sets up the last hour is so ridiculous it's unbelievable (even in a parable like this), thereby making the second part of the film less plausible and relevant emotionally since you feel like you're purposely being jerked around. Characters are made to do certain things not because they want to, but because the director wants them to. And watching an actress suffer for an extended period of time is a mighty difficult thing to present and make "effective" (I'm thinking of The Passion of Joan of Arc) - I found little compassion for Selma, because I felt her predicament is a cinematic sham. What particularly irks me is not how people are calling this "the future of cinema" but how they ignored Fight Club, a truly visionary picture, last year. Dancer leaves me cold.