Precious Bodily Fluids

Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, 2000)


Again, von Trier seems intent on punishing a women, although this is no secret to him or anyone else. But much more than Dogville or MelancholiaDancer in the Dark seems so intent on presenting an innocent, kind, and even childlike protagonist just to destroy her as awfully and violently as possible. The film begins with abstract paintings to a quiet musical soundtrack, extreme close-ups, somewhat evocative of Dürer’s painting in Melancholia. (Note the art-film trope of inserting art, particularly through painting and classical music, into the film’s diegesis, as if to legitimize it.) The technique also evokes the montage finale of Andrei Rublev, although the icons of that film clash heavily with the nihilism of this one. The films appears to be shot on handheld video, aiming at a kind of realism at odds with that in Dogville. However, periodic musical interludes with static (almost surveillance-like) camera work remind the spectator, albeit in a low-fi fashion, that this is a production and we are sutured to the main character’s point of view. Close-ups abound, especially those that keep Selma’s determined smile and thick glasses in our faces. Her inability to recognize the images in the movie theater do not detract from her cinephilia, which really is more of a backdrop for the music she loves. Her friendship with Kathy, played by Catherine Deneuve, seems a bit ironic considering these cinema scenes. Deneuve herself is as much an icon of European art cinema as there is, reaching back to the 1960s (see Repulsion, Belle de Jour, etc.) when movie theater scenes were so rampant. The music in the film is inseparable from Selma’s experience, industrially rhythmic music that glorifies her blue-collar work even as it demystifies the old Hollywood musical by punishing Selma for her daydreaming. Von Trier only allows her to keep all her limbs in the film because losing one would have evoked some pity from the jury that condemned her to death near the end.

This entry was published on September 15, 2014 at 4:31 pm. It’s filed under 2000s Cinema, British Film, Danish Film, Lars von Trier, Swedish Film and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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