This incredible film tore me limb from limb. Directed by Lars von Trier, Dancer in the Dark is a drama/musical and is quite a departure from the norm for the controversial filmmaker. What makes this film really interesting is the main character is played by singer Björk and features songs performed and written by her. If you aren’t a fan of her music then the songs might not appeal to you as much—I love her music, so it wasn’t an issue to me. Björk plays the role of a single mother immigrant who moved to American to provide a better life for her young son. She has a terrible secret that she is hiding from everyone and things only get worse from there.
The story is gripping and Björk put in an absolutely amazing performance. She is almost child-like in her view of the world and it makes it easy for the audience to emphasize and care about what happens to her. The movie switches between heavy indie-style drama and beautiful musical numbers and somehow they mesh together perfectly. Usually in a musical, the acting in between numbers is cheesy, but this movie never falls into that trap.
Dancer in the Dark is an absolutely soul-crushing movie. It is unrelenting in its bleakness, but there is always some beauty in tragedy. Movies like this tend to have a cathartic effect on me and stick in my mind for several days afterward. The music in this film will probably polarize some people as Björk has a very distinct sound and style. I found her plaintive-sounding vocals haunting and a perfect accompaniment to the proceedings. There are some dance numbers as well and the choreography was a little weak in those parts. It’s such an interesting dichotomy between the somber mood of the story and the happy-go-lucky musical numbers interspersed throughout the film. I have never seen anything like it before.
If you aren’t normally a fan of musicals, I’m not sure if this film will change your mind about them. However, because it doesn’t follow the normal tropes of the genre, it’s still worth a watch if you are on the fence about them. At the very least, you will be moved by Björk’s captivating performance and have a chance to see an experimental genre-bending movie. I cannot recommend this movie enough.
-Reviewed by Michelle Kisner