The Bottom Line: Needs a couple of looks before you catch the true form of the movie
I wasn't sure what to make of this movie, based on an unwed young mother from the Czech Republic, Selma (Bjork) and her son Gene (Vladica Kostic), who live in a rundown trailer in a dreary little town in Washington. Selma works at the local factory and has a consuming love of musicals. In her off hours, she attends classes and stars in small town productions of big time numbers at the local theater group. But Selma has a secret.
None of Selma's friends or co-workers, including best friend Kathy (Catherine Deneuve) or landlord Bill (David Morse) are aware that Selma is quickly losing her eyesight. A genitive condition that can be cured with an operation - but couple low pay and no child support, what few buckos she can glimmer go into a fund for her son, also suffering from the same degenerative condition.
As it turns out, landlord Bill (who is also a policeman), has made a few bad choices in his life. Previously well off, he has trained his wife to wallow in the lap of luxury. Suddenly he is faced with debts that must be paid and nary a dime in the coffers. Realizing that Selma has squirreled away a thou or two for her son's operation, he makes inappropriate advances to her and ends up with her money. She shoots him. Face it, she is a very protective mother, and this money is for her son's operation.
Actually, to tell you anymore will give away the unbelievable ending of this movie, and trust me I do not want to do that.
Sitting on the sidelines This movie is about as far removed from anything I have ever watched as it could be. At first I believed it to be a really offbeat foreign production and I thought, who the Hell is this girl trying to sing? Then I immersed myself further into the movie. I guess you would call it a low production rock opera type of movie, where people just suddenly burst into song instead of talking. Took me by surprise at first.
Indeed, I watched this movie three times, although since I already knew the ending it took a little away from it. Initially I was somewhat irritated by Bjork's singing - not always on key, her voice somewhat grating at times. Her physical demeanor comes off as unkept and tatty. That was first viewing. The second time through, her playfulness came through, her voice didn't seem so outlandish, at times she seemed quite sexual even with her unruly hair and coke bottle glasses, ill fitting clothes and clunky shoes.
Bjork won Best Actress award at Cannes 2000, where the film won the Palm d'Orr. Bjork was responsible for all music in the film, and won an Academy Award for I've Seen It All, which she sings quite enchantingly on a train trestle with current love Peter Stormare.
Deneuve, far from her sexual role that usually relies on her good looks, fooled me completely with her portrayal of an equally down trodden and beaten factory worker in this movie. Hardly recognizable as the incredible seductress from Addiction, I thoroughly enjoyed her supporting part in this movie. Joel Grey lent his talents both as actor and assistant choreographer.
Scenery and cinematography pulled together to pull off this desolate area, the overworked and under paid factory employees, deplorable conditions. People living pay to pay, hardly a spare dime to set aside, certainly no luxuries. Everything came off as surly and depressing. However, when filming the exterior scenes through the countryside, it was bright and cheerful, adding to the bleakness of their daily lives.
However, other than Bjork's own incredible talent, I think writer and director Lars Von Trier should be given two big thumbs up for pulling this heartbreaking story through melodrama to pothos, both instilling guilt and relief with equal aplomb.
Had someone told me what this movie was about, I probably never would have watched it and certainly never searched it out. Would I watch it again? Absolutely! The musical score is playful enough to be enjoyed, but also contains a lot of pain and suffering. The story line has probably been introduced times untold, but with the introduction of the plain and needy Bjork in this movie, it takes a new and surprising twist.
In the end I came to think her singing quite enjoyable and often melodramatic.
........."They say it's the last song, They don't know us you see It's only the last song If we let it be ........" ******
Written and directed by Lars Von Trier, musical composition by Bjork. Tauntingly incredible!
In the year 2000, Bjork decided to tackle the acting world with the Danish musical Dancer in the dark. Directed by Lars Von Trier, the film tackles the issue of an immigrant’s life in the world. Bjork plays a humble Czech immigrant who now finds herself in Washington with her son. Despite the hardships, Selma (Bjork’s Character) finds the beauty in life. She works hard in the local factory, but during her free time she finds her dream of wanting to be the lead actress of the local play. … more