Dancer in the Dark review by Adan Alva

Films are created to entertain audience, but some movies give the audience a disturbing feeling after watching them, due to the genre. Dancer in the Dark is onead of those types of films that gives the audience a disturbing feeling since it is a musical drama film. This film was directed by Lars von Trier, a Danish film producer, and was released in 2000. This film has many emotional scenes and the dull cinematography helps add depression to this film. Dancer in the Dark has a very depressing mood to and it is showed through the protagonist and plot of the film. Trier does a phenomenal job of bringing all the cinematography, actors, plot and setting of the film to make it have a saddening, emotional, feeling to this musical dramatic film. Dancer in the Dark should be labeled with a viewer discretion due to its disturbing emotional scenes and its heartbreaking ending.

Dancer in the Dark is about Selma Ježková, a Czech immigrant woman, who moved to the United States with her son. Selma, played by Björk, has a degenerative eye condition that causes her to lose her eye sight. She works at a factory and daydreams about musicals since it is her passion. Selma participates in a local theater where she is the main star but with every passing day, her eye sight worsens. Since she lives in poverty, she cannot afford to give her son presents for his birthdays nor give him items he desires, causing him to steal. He gets in trouble with the police, but luckily Bill, played by David Morse, gets him, and takes him to Selma’s job. Selma gets furious with her son and tells him to not get into trouble and focus on school because school is the most important thing. Kathy, Selma’s best friend and played by Catherine Deneuve, assists Selma in everything she can due to her poor eye sight. Jeff, played by Peter Stormare, is deeply in love with Selma and tries to help her in every way he can but is rejected by Selma because she wants to be independent. Bill and Selma have a great relationship up until about the middle of the film when they get a little too confident with each other. They exchange secrets with each other revealing their problems. Little does Selma know, that she just revealed something that would change her life and sets the depression of the film. Bill tells Selma that he is in debt due to his materialistic wife spending more than his salary and that the bank is going to take his house if he does not pay them. Selma tells Bill about her vision problem to comfort him, but he takes advantage of her vision as he pretends to leave her house, watching were she keeps her savings. Bill ends up stealing Selma’s savings. Selma finds out that someone stole her savings and walks to Bill’s house to get it back. She walks in finds Bill’s wife and askes where Bill is. Eventually she finds Bill and tells him to give back the money, but Bill refuses. After they fight for the money, Bill ends up getting shot and he tells Selma to kill him. Selma ends up killing Bill and his wife calls the police. Selma then collects her money and heads to a hospital where they will operate on her son, so he won’t have the same vision lose as her. Selma gets arrested, is found guilty for the murder, and sentenced to be hung. Before Selma gets hung, she gets informed by Kathy that her son had the operation and will be able to see. Selma then gets filled with enjoyment and happiness and sings a song before she is eventually hung.

Throughout this film there was many scenes that were depressing. The film had dull cinematography which sets the gloomy setting. Most of the film coloring were cool colors and it only had better coloring when the musicals of the film were performed. The film already started out depressing and gloomy to the audience when Selma was introduced, a nearly blinded woman living in poverty. As her eye sight worsens, the director of the theater in which she participates, hires an understudy to learn her part. In this scene we see that Selma is hurt that she needs an understudy, since she has been practicing for a while in the theater. When Bill takes Selma’s money and does not give it back, it gives the audience a disturbing feeling because Bill uses it to feed his selfish needs. Bill knows Selma’s vision is worsening and he takes advantage of her and to add fire to the flame, he makes it seem like she went to steal the money from him. He gets her in trouble and without shame does not tell his wife the actual situation they are living in. Selma does everything for her son and what makes this more depressing is that she does not tell the true about what really happened because of the promise she made with Bill. During the courtroom hearing, Selma makes up a lie about sending money to her father and gets caught in the lie by Bill’s wife’s lawyer. The trail is unfair with her defendant incapable of doing anything to help her. The most depressing part is when she sacrifices her own life so that her son can be able to see. She gets a better lawyer but does not want to pay him, so that the money could be used for her son’s operation. Selma ends up getting hanged for trying to save her son from losing his sight. The music, the cinematography, and the emotional scenes set the depressing plot of the film, in which Trier does a phenomenal job of putting them all together.

Dancer in the Dark is a musical dramatic film with a depressing, emotional plot that can be disturbing to some viewers. Trier mixes dull coloring with heartbreaking scenes to set the gloomy plot of the film. Selma’s story was devastating causing mixed emotions. The musicals in the film help lighten up the mood but they do not change the fact that it was depressing. Over all the film was a pleasure to watch, leaving the audience with sadden emotions.

One thought on “Dancer in the Dark review by Adan Alva”

  1. This film certainly did leave a disturbing feeling at the end of it. The overall vibe of the film came off as depressing and dull but maybe it was intended for us to feel what Björk, or Selma, was feeling throughout her days. I noticed that during the musical scenes, the feel is brighter due to the change of color. The grass is greener, and the mood is happier and sort of careless. This mood change could be to allow us to understand how Selma’s mood changes when she isn’t focused on her eyesight or the future of her life and her son’s life.


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