Runtime: 2 Hours
and 21 Minutes
Wow. That is really the only word I can manage when thinking about
this film. Why did I wait so long? What kept me? It was probably Bjork.
I have never liked Bjork much. I have usually agreed with those who
referred to her as an Icelandic chipmunk. But the good reviews were
plentiful (including the always helpful Barbi Hilleshiem) and so I
gave it a shot.
Thank God I did. This movie is one of the most powerful films of the
year 2000. I'm not kidding. It ranks right up there with "Requiem
For a Dream" as far as sheer intensity goes. The performances
are all top drawer and the story is utterly compelling. By the end
of the first hour and a half, I had to stop the film to do some chores
outside (the hazard of living on a farm) and it was only then that
I realized I had opened a can of pop about a half hour before. The
film had me hooked.
"Dancer in the Dark" is the sad tale of Selma (Bjork). Selma
is a woman who loves her son more than life itself. She is slowly
going blind and is concerned with only one thing: saving money so
that her son can afford an operation which will prevent him from suffering
her fate. Her world is slowly going dark, but she still needs her
job at the factory in order to save her son's sight. She memorizes
the eye chart so that she can pass the eye exam and retain her job.
She does her job not by sight but rather by the rhythms of the machines
which surround her. She has a loyal friend (Catherine Deneuve, who
is excellent) a loyal, male admirer (Peter Stormare) and a very nice
neighbor who happens to be a police officer (David Morse). Her neighbor
is the only one to whom she confesses her plight, but only after he
has confessed something to her: the inheritence he has been living
on is gone and his wife will be also when she realizes this fact.
He needs money and he needs it immediately.
This revelation will turn out to be a much darker one than you can
anticipate right away, leading to a horrific chain of events that
will put Selma's musical daydreams and her quite stubborn optimism
to the ultimate test. You see, Selma is a lover of old musicals. In
fact, when the dire circumstances of her life threaten to overwhelm
her, Selma takes the rhythms of her daily life and turns them into
her own mental musical numbers. It is her only way of survival. If
she did not have them, she might view the world as grimly as her neighbor
Bill (Morse) does. But, as the circumstances of her life grow more
and more nightmarish and the world around her begins to lose its rhythm,
the sunny outlook of hers may not last.
This is a dark, sad and honest movie. It is one of the few movies
in recent memory that admits that life is a pretty grim place. After
seeing a movie like this one, one that is concerned with such problems
as blindness, poverty and death, it's a little hard to give a shit
about whether or not Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan get together at the end.
This movie has more serious things on its mind. And that is what keeps
it soaring even when the sheer corniness of some of its musical numbers
threaten to overwhelm it. After all, these numbers do serve a purpose.
They show us how Selma chooses to see the world and it shows us the
dangers of loving movies so much that you lose touch with the world
around you. It is a cautionary tale not only about capital punishment
but also about getting TOO wrapped up in your dreams when such things
might not be appropriate. However, it is also about the way dreams
are sometimes the only things we have to cling to.
God, this is a miraculous movie. The cinematography, all done on digital
camera, does a superb job of grounding the film in reality and making
the film's day-to-day world FEEL like the day to day world. It also
does a beautiful job of making the world of Selma's dreams feel completely
magical and wrapping you up in the magic she revels in.
And as for Selma, well, Bjork gives a daring and beautifully modulated
performance. Even her voice fits the role. Her voice has always seemed
less like that of a polished singer than that of a novice who loves
to sing. Well, that is perfect for Selma. Hell, now I like her style
of singing. She has a tremendous vocal range and what she may lack
(probably just in my eyes) in melodiousness (I think now that she
is just too distinctive and unusual for the casual listener like myself)
she more than makes up for in passion. Her role here is filled with
passion. She will break your heart here and make you instantly captivated.
Bjork, honey, if you can turn in a performance this amazing, you can
wear a swan anywhere you want. How can she not even get nominated?
I have already chastised the Academy enough this week, but neglecting
this performance is nothing short of a crime against humanity.
If you're a Bjork fan or not, you NEED to see this movie. Wow. Trust
me. Go. Laugh at me all you want right now. But see the movie and
THEN try to laugh at me. I am certain you won't be able to. An intense,
powerful, daring and exhilarating film that is truly worthy of being
called revolutionary. I don't think I can lavish much higher praise.