Selma, a Czech immigrant on the verge of blindness, struggles to make ends meet for herself and her son, who has inherited the same genetic disorder and will suffer the same fate without an expensive operation. When life gets too difficult, Selma learns to cope through her love of musicals, escaping life's troubles - even if just for a moment - by dreaming up little numbers to the rhythmic beats of her surroundings.
Lar's von Trier's musical, shot in raw, jumpy digital video, is a fascinating exercise in brutality, mitigated by the otherworldy charisma (and the music) of the Icelandic pop star Bjork. As Selma, a Czech immigrant factory worker going blind in the early 1960's in Washington State (the film was shot in Sweden), Bjork seems to be inventing a whole new style of film acting, and her performance is miraculous. von Trier, continuing his campaign to rescue the art of film from complacency and convention, follows Selma's utter annihilation with sadistic relish. "Dancer in the Dark" is both stupefyingly bad and utterly overpowering; it can elicit, sometimes within a single scene, a gasp of rapture and a spasm of revulsion. Come to the theater prepared, with a handkerchief in one hand and a rotten tomato in the other. -- A. O. Scott
2000-09-22 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of Dancer in the Dark