Monday, November 30, 2009

The Ten Movies That Defined My Decade.

9. Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, 2000)

"Why do I love it so much?
What kind of magic is this?

How come I can't help adore it?
It's just another musical

No one minds it at all
If I'm having a ball
This is a musical"

-from "In the Musicals" by Björk

I had never seen a movie like "Dancer in the Dark" before I popped in the DVD that fateful day more than eight years ago.
Before it I thought that musicals were limited to being grand scale epics in Technicolor where everyone was a tune away from a happy ending.
Of course I'd seen "West Side Story", "Cabaret" and the likes, but even in their tragic finales there is always an ethereal beauty that at least leaves you with some hope.
But this one destroyed me.
I couldn't believe what poor Selma Ježková (Björk) had just gone through. A degenerative disease, a son who had inherited it, extreme poverty, a wrongful trial for helping a friend and the biggest evil of all was her extreme goodness.
How could we live in a world where good people suffered the most and how dare a movie not give them the happy ending they so obviously deserved?
Then again I obviously had no idea who Lars von Trier was. "Dancer in the Dark" opened up my eyes to someone who has become one of my favorite working directors.
His ability to be both irreverent and moving has fascinated me ever since. I now owe him some of the most memorable movie watching experiences of my life (I sat frozen in my seat after watching "Dogville" a few years later and am still uncovering the different layers hidden in "Antichrist").
I also owe this movie my endless love for Björk. Before this I liked some of her work, but just thought of her as the kooky woman in the weird "Ren & Stimpy" like video that had disturbed me so much as a kid.
But after watching how she committed with Selma I was astounded someone could give such a raw performance, I remember clearly thinking she had been inspired by Falconetti's performance in "The Passion of Joan of Arc" and how like her she would only deliver one medium changing performance.
Von Trier as I learned is definitely not for everyone, but those who give in to his vision are never unrewarded.
To this day his ability to push cinema forward, challenge our notions and extract brilliant performances out of his tortured muses is music to my ears.


Michael Parsons said...

This one shattered me too. Amazing film and even more amazing performance (Catherine was also brilliant as was Siobhan)

CS said...

Absolutely loved this film, I am surprised how often people overlook this film when talking about modern musicals.