Doodad Kind of Town


May TOERIFC: Dancer in the Dark
May 18, 2009, 12:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

To do justice to Lars Von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” is a daunting task. It’s so dense and rich, so inconsistent – brilliant in some places and deeply unsatisfying in others — that just getting my thoughts into a manageable post has proved quite a trial.

Lars Von Trier is, all by himself, a complex subject. A self-described provocateur, he was raised by Communist/nudist/atheists (you read that right) but converted to Catholicism as an adult. His films are typically stuffed with controversial ideas, often including a strident antipathy towards all things American. His frequently female protagonists suffer miserable and terrible fates, to the point that he is considered misogynistic, perhaps even a bit sadistic. But at the same time, he’s original and daring, and his films give audiences plenty of intellectually and emotionally challenging fodder to chew on.

“Dancer in the Dark” has a little bit of everything for which Von Trier has come to be both revered and reviled. I doubt anyone comes away from it feeling lukewarm.

It begins with a three-minute prologue in which a screen filled with continually morphing abstract images is accompanied by soaring orchestral music. We wait for the images to morph into something real and identifiable – flowers, or a mountain range perhaps. But they never become anything recognizable. This beginning may seem odd, but it soon proves to be a fitting commencement.

To start a film with an overture is to impart it with it a heightened sense of importance, even grandeur. Such a sense of occasion was characteristic of big-budget film adaptations of Broadway musicals in the 1960s (“West Side Story,” “My Fair Lady,” “The Sound of Music” and so on) where the overture was played over the opening credits. And “Dancer in the Dark” is, indeed, set in the 1960s with a central character who is obsessed with musical films.

Then too, these images that threaten to become recognizable objects – but never do – simulate for us the experience of striving to see something, but being unable to. And this allows us, however briefly, to experience the point of view of “Dancer’s heroine, Selma Jezkova, a woman who is quickly going blind and struggling to prevent her young son from experiencing the same plight.

From the overture,we are taken to “Washington State, 1964” and a rehearsal of what looks to be a particularly bad amateur production of “The Sound of Music.” Selma (Bjork) is happily singing “My Favorite Things” as her friend Kathy (Catherine Deneuve) hands her, from the wings, the actual items she sings about (bright copper kettle, warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string and so on.) It’s awkward and silly, as we can see from Kathy’s exasperated expressions, but Selma remains joyful throughout, even adding an impromptu tap step as a closing flourish. Thus the nature of the relationship between the two women – Kathy as the long-suffering, but nurturing, pragmatist and Selma as the childlike dreamer in need of guidance – is established at the outset.

You may also notice that Selma sports an ungainly pair of heavy, thick, black-rimmed glasses, and in the ensuing scene, she’s shown in the ladies’ room at her optometrist’s office, reading and quickly memorizing the letters written on a sheet of paper that she holds close to her face. She’s clearly cramming to fake her way through a vision test, and in the next scene, she convincingly passes that test and convinces her doctor that it’s safe for her to continue her factory job.

Selma spends days working alongside Kathy at a foundry where she runs a heavy, potentially dangerous machine that stamps sheets of metal into basins. At nights, in the small trailer she shares with 12-year-old son Gene (Vladica Kostic), she assembles packages of hairpins in order to make extra money.

Childlike and bubbly. Selma seems to invoke the protective indulgence of everyone around her. The “Sound of Music” director privately tells others that she “sings funny and can’t really dance,” but dotes on her during rehearsals. Her factory foreman (Jean Marc Barr) scolds her gently but cheerfully about bringing her script to work and practicing her dance steps on company time. A would-be suitor, Jeff (Peter Stormare), waits loyally for her in his pick-up truck everyday at quitting time, although she brushes off his offers of a ride and tells him she has no time for a boyfriend.

And she unabashedly loves musicals, freely admitting that when times are bad, she escapes into them to feel better. Kathy accompanies her to the local cinema, where they watch ’30s classics like “42nd Street” and “Gold Diggers of 1933,” with Kathy narrating or even recreating dance steps with her fingertips on Selma’s palm when Selma can’t clearly see the screen. But Selma’s musical obsession goes beyond the films themselves. She hears musical rhythms in all the sounds around her – is perhaps, though it isn’t clearly suggested, even more sensitive to these rhythms as a result of losing her sense of sight. In the clack-clatter-bang of factory machines, the rumble of a train on the tracks, even the banging of a chain on a flagpole, Selma hears music, and out of that music, she creates full-blown production numbers in her head, numbers which we get to see as well. Those imagined production numbers will turn out to be both her salvation and her downfall.


Apart from Kathy, Selma’s most significant friendship proves to be with Bill Houston (David Morse), the man on whose property her trailer is parked. Bill and his wife, Linda (Cara Seymour) watch Gene when Selma is at work, and invite her and Gene over to listen to music and eat fancy, foil-wrapped chocolates in the evenings while they help with the hairpins. “Bill gives me a lot of money,” Linda brags, and Selma feigns being impressed because she believes this makes Bill happy. The Houstons even buy Gene a bicycle for his birthday, a gift Selma can’t provide because, as she tells them all, “I’m not that kind of mum.” (i.e. one with money).

The scenes between Selma and Bill are pivotal moments in “Dancer in the Dark,” each instrumental in propelling Selma towards a tragic fate. In the first, Bill stops by the trailer one night to share a secret with Selma: he’s broke. His once huge inheritance is gone and he’s terrified to tell Linda there’s no more money for the nice things she’s become accustomed to. Selma trustfully shares her own secret in return : she’s going blind due to a genetic defect which has been passed on to her son. He’ll begin going blind soon, too, unless he has an operation – in fact, she emigrated from Czechoslovakia to the U.S. solely to get him that operation, and she’s saved $2026.10 to pay for it, nearly but not quite enough. Then the two talk happily about their mutual love of musicals. It’s a warm scene and it feels as though a bond has been forged between the two friends, but in reality, Selma’s been set up for disaster. And we get our first sense of that at the end of the scene when the camera pans from Bill leaving Selma’s trailer to Linda watching anxiously from the window of their house. If you’ve seen any other of Von Trier’s films, you will rightly suspect that all hell is about to break loose.


With Selma’s eyesight rapidly fading, she’s forced to scramble for the last of the money needed for Gene’s operation. She volunteers for an extra, nighttime shift at the factory, and when she arrives, asking the forewoman, “Is it always so dark in here?” we know her time is running out. While lost in one of her musical fantasies, Selma jams her machine badly, stopping production and barely escaping injury herself. When she gets home that night, Bill carries a sleeping Gene from his house to the trailer, and starts to tell her that he plans to confess his situation to Linda. But he stops momentarily to watch Selma pour herself a glass of water and use her finger to judge the water level in the glass while staring straight ahead. Realizing that Selma is now blind, he pretends to leave by shutting the trailer door, then stands perfectly still and watches intently as Selma puts some cash into a candy tin she’s hidden behind a fold-down ironing board. Her entire savings are in that candy tin, and we have no doubt that Bill is going to take them as soon as she leaves the room. I’ve only ever seen Morse play decent, earnest, good-guy characters, and to this point, Bill has appeared to be just one more of those good guys. The way Morse subtly plays this sudden shift from good guy to venal thief is electrifying.

A unstoppable chain of events has been launched. Selma is fired from her factory job, and upon returning home discovers the theft of her money. She confronts Bill at his desk where he has her cash laid out before him. Selma almost gets away with her money, but Bill pulls a gun on her, and the scene rapidly deteriorates from there.


Honestly, I’ve seen “Dancer in the Dark” four times now (three times in just the last two weeks), and this scene – which ought to have a harrowing, life-and-death urgency – gets more laughable and ridiculous every time I watch it. What goes wrong exactly? Maybe it’s that Bill doesn’t make any real effort to hold onto the money until Selma’s almost out the door with it. Maybe it’s that, even after Bill informs her he’s pulled a gun, Selma dilly-dallies around instead of taking the money and running. Maybe it’s that once Bill gives her the gun to kill him, she puts as many holes in his carpet as she puts in him (she’s blind, after all.) Maybe it’s that Morse never once convinces me that Bill is in any real pain or that he has enough of a grip on the bag of money that Selma couldn’t easily wrest it from him without resorting to more violence. Or maybe it’s the loony way Seymour pops in and out the scene, without registering any plausible fear or concern, delivering her lines as she’s just arrived from another movie altogether – one directed by Ed Wood. Probably it’s all of that. But the scene doesn’t work, and I blame Von Trier. He’s got at least two really fine actors in that scene, and if they couldn’t make the characters’ actions plausible, then the scene should have been rewritten or reworked. Anyway, Selma finally resorts to bludgeoning Bill with a metal cash box and killing him.

Overcome with the terrible reality of what she’s done, but soon distracted by the rhythmic scratching of a phonograph needle at the end of a record playing on Bill’s hi-fi, Selma enters into yet another fantasy musical number. She has just enough time to give the cash to the doctor who will perform Gene’s operation. At her “Sound of Music” rehearsal that night, Selma is arrested.

At her murder trial, many of Selma’s formerly supportive friends testify against her. Hey eye doctor testifies that she is nearsighted, but not blind. The factory foreman testifies that she said Communism was better for human beings than democracy (a gross misinterpretation of her casual comment that the “sharing” done in Czechoslovakia was “a good thing.”) Linda reviles her for showing Bill “no mercy.” When Selma finally takes the stand, she maddeningly does not defend herself. She says she was saving money to send to her father, Oldrich Novy, in Czechoslovakia, and that Bill asked her to kill him (which is true) but that she “promised not to tell” why. When the real Novy (Joel Grey), a Czech musical star is called to the stand, he professes never to have seen or heard of Selma before. For her part, Selma is thrilled that her idol and fantasy father figure has shown up, and soon she’s concocting yet another musical fantasy, this one in which she dances on the judge’s desk with Novy. Lovely as the number is, it is only a brief respite in Selma’s march towards tragedy. The court finds her guilty and sentences her to be hanged.


No one familiar with Von Trier’s work will be surprised to see that his heroine is persecuted, betrayed and made to suffer horribly. The most obvious parallel is to “Breaking the Waves” and its heroine, Bess: both characters are innocent; both are driven by an illogical, self-destructive code of personal integrity; and both meet tragic ends. But the way that the townspeople suddenly turn on Selma after Bill’s death, recasting actions and words which once seemed innocuous (wonder that Bill kept his gun at home, an apparent interest in Bill’s money) as sinister, “Dancer in the Dark” also prefigures the gang rape and shackling of Grace in “Dogville”: the natives turn on the outsider. (It’s notable that only the European-born characters, Kathy and Jeff, stand by Selma until the bitter end, and neither of them are called to testify at her trial. This would seem to be one of Von Trier’s trademark swipes at America, albeit a feeble one. Selma’s own refusal to defend herself is as much the cause of her downfall as the accusations of her fellow townspeople.)

Unlike “Dogville’s” Grace, however, Selma doesn’t seek revenge, but rather goes to the gallows with little resistance. An attempt by Kathy to obtain a retrial for her is scuttled because it would require paying a new lawyer with the money intended for Gene’s operation. Selma is ferociously clear on this; she rails at Kathy about the foolishness of “spending that kind of money on a blind woman who’s going to spend the rest of her life in jail.” Kathy’s protests that Gene needs his mother fall on deaf ears, Selma insists “He needs his eyes!”


Selma assuages her fears in prison with more musical reveries, comforting herself with a strange rendition of “My Favorite Things” (possibly the most annoying cover of that song since Barbra Streisand’s first Christmas album) and even steeling herself for the final walk to the gallows with fantasies of singing to and consoling male inmates on Death Row. The hanging scene goes on forever, and is almost unbearable to watch, with Selma screaming in fear. Kathy rushes to her, presses Gene’s eyeglasses into her hands, and assures her that Gene has received the operation, and “he’ll see his grandchildren.” In this news, Selma finds needed peace. She begins to sing “this is the next to last song/there are no violins/the choir is so quiet/and no one takes a spin.” In happier times, Selma admitted to Bill that she could never stand to see a musical end and so used to leave the cinema during “the next to last song.” And once again, she’ll make an early exit. In mid-song, the hangman trips the lever and Selma falls to her death. A curtain is drawn closed in front of the scene, and the film ends.

“Dancer in the Dark” is not the first or only musical in which a character escapes a bleak existence by escaping into musical fantasy. It’s not even the first film musical to end with a hanging. (That would be the film adaptation of Dennis Potter’s “Pennies from Heaven” in 1981, although that hanging was suggested rather than depicted.) But it is unique in that the musical fantasy scenes are set not to well-known popular songs, but to original music written and orchestrated by the film’s star. Icelandic singer Bjork is famously eccentric and not to everyone’s taste. (I sampled a couple of her other music videos and couldn’t get past the first fifteen seconds of either.) Her singing is a bit eccentric, too. Too often she affects an odd, crackle-y quality that I can only describe as somewhere between a cartoon leprechaun and a badly played violin. It IS an affectation, though; her voice is clear-throated and thrilling when it needs to be. And no matter how I feel about Bjork’s other music, I pretty much love all her songs in “Dancer in the Dark.” In particular, “I’ve Seen it All” and “Smith and Wesson” serve important dramatic functions in the story.

Selma sings “I’ve Seen it All” to Jeff just after she’s been fired from the foundry but before she learns her money has been taken – significantly, the last moment in which she can be under any illusion that she is in control of her own circumstances. The lyrics profess apathy about her encroaching blindness: Jeff sings to her about all the things she will never see like “your grandchild’s hand as he strokes you hair” and Selma shrugs them off with “to be honest, I really don’t care.” But if the words are dismissive, the melody – fueled by the rumbling of a train on the tracks – is mournful and elegiac, and suggests that Selma may be in more pain than she’s admitting.


Equally powerful is “Smith and Wesson” a fragmented and not terribly melodic reverie that Selma enters into just after killing Bill. This particular fantasy might be considered a full-blown dissociative state, a radical reaction to a reality that is too terrible for Selma to face. But it also represents her way of granting herself absolution through music, with a resurrected Bill telling her “You are forgiven,” Linda sending her off before the police come, and even her son consoling her in a clear, boy’s soprano that “you just did what you had to do” All before Selma walks into the lake at the song’s conclusion, the water surrounding her clearly a symbol of purification and renewal. And it’s significant that from this point on, all Selma’s musical imaginings will likewise function to dissociate her from traumatic events such as her arrest, sentencing and hanging.

What I don’t like about the musical numbers is the herky-jerky “Moulin Rouge”-esque way they’re edited. (Jerky editing is, of course, a hallmark of Von Trier’s filmmaking style, but it’s far less tolerable in a musical production number than in an emotionally intimate scene of dialogue.) Von Trier used an ambitious filming process with as many as 100 digital video cameras simultaneously filming each dance number from 100 different angles. That sounds great, but it’s probably at least 90 more cameras than were needed. Because we really don’t need that many perspectives on a dance number; all we need is a way to see everyone in the scene and then a way to focus on one or more specific dancers at climactic moments. The cutting especially bugged me in the courtroom musical fantasy, ’cause if Joel Grey is going to dance, I want to see that. Without interruptions. And what I really wanted was a good, long two-shot of Bjork and Grey dancing together, because watching Selma dance with her beloved Novy would carry a lot more emotional reasonance than just getting a quick shot of Selma’s face, a quick one of Novy’s and then cutting away to a group of jurors snapping their fingers. The dance rehearsal master videos that were included in the DVD’s special features were actually more satisfying to me than most of the finished, filmed dances.

Some films improve upon repeated viewings. Your experience of them deepens as you discover fresh nuances and layers of meaning with each viewing. And some only get less satistfying the more you see them. Oddly, for me “Dancer in the Dark” became both more and less in each of the three times I watched it over the last two weeks. On my second, third and fourth viewings, the lapses in logic and the enormous holes in the plot became almost risible. (Why doesn’t Selma have a bank account instead of a damn candy box? How can Selma not know Bill is still in the room when she hides the money? How likely is it that Gene’s eyes will deteriorate more rapidly if he finds out he’s going blind, and why doesn’t anyone challenge Selma on that crazy notion? Where is Gene’s father? Why do people ask Selma why she had Gene if he was going to have a disease – abortions certainly weren’t easily available in 1964. And I’ve already talked about the murder scene.) I’m willing to suspend my disbelief once in awhile if the payoff is worth it. But by the fourth viewing, I was convinced that Selma herself wrote the screenplay, so much are we asked to take on faith.

But the significance of the musical fantasies (in particular, the aforementioned “I’ve Seen it All”) only became more apparent to me the more times I watched. And each time, I appreciated Bjork’s performance more and more. If we believe anything that happens here, it’s because Selma believes – and by extension, because Bjork believes. With her tiny brown eyes, upturned nose and round, lightly freckled cheeks, she’s more elfin than womanly, equal parts innocence and foolishness. (There are moments in “I’ve Seen it All” where her facial expressions actually suggest not a grown woman, but an earnest toddler singing her heart out.) And there’s an emotional immediacy in her performance that perfectly suits the trusting and innocent Selma. Her rapturous expressions when she hears a rhythm that speaks to her are something akin to religious ecstasy. Her joy in musical expression is something which literally inhabits and defines her, it bursts out of her from somewhere very true and deep. It’s impossible to tell where Bjork begins and Selma ends.

Bjork famously battled with Von Trier on the “Dancer in the Dark” set and hasn’t acted in a film since, which is understandable given the emotional toll this role must have taken on her. But more’s the pity. Her screen presence is undeniably powerful. And her music certainly lends layers of meaning and emotional reasonance to what otherwise might have been just a dreary and pointless Von Trier tale of female self-sacrifice.

(For the record, I don’t think that having a suffering female heroine in your film – or even several of your films – necessarily translates to misogyny, but Selma’s suffering in this film seems particularly pointless to me. I don’t see her as an allegorical character like Grace in “Dogville” or “Manderlay,” and I’m not sure what we’re meant to feel about her apparent martyrdom for the cause of saving her son’s eyesight. We’re don’t close enough to Gene for that outcome to mean much.)

This much I am sure of: Lars Von Trier might be the name in big, bold letters on the title card, but for me, “Dancer in the Dark” is Bjork’s movie from start to finish.

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265 Comments so far
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Excellent write-up Pat. Given the many emotional and logical fluctuations of this film I know it must have been difficult to get it all down in one post. If you don’t mind, I’d like to jump right in on this point you made:Honestly, I’ve seen “Dancer in the Dark” four times now (three times in just the last two weeks), and this scene – which ought to have a harrowing, life-and-death urgency – gets more laughable and ridiculous every time I watch it. What goes wrong exactly? …The movie, despite problems I had with it, had me up until this point. I liked where it was going in exploring her character and then this scene happened. I should have been moved or disturbed in some way and I wasn’t. The whole scene felt disasterous to the movie. I was shocked by how poorly it was done. It truly and honestly took me out of the movie. Great leaps of judgment are made in the scene too quickly while physical action goes on too long. He has her money, she wants it back. She takes it and he pulls his gun. He is shot accidentally and then asks her to kill him but continues to speak to his wife as if Selma is the dangerous assassin. He’s going to die so now would be the time to say it was Selma’s money and well… the whole thing just didn’t work for me. What did work throughout the movie was Bjork’s childlike performance. I thought she was excellent and was surprised by how good she was in the execution scene. One other thing for starters: I read Ebert and Rosenbaum’s reviews of this and for what it’s worth, Rosenbaum mentions that in the original release the overture is done to a black screen but abstracts were inserted for American audiences so they would have something to watch.

Comment by Greg

Great writeup, and this was a great choice for a discussion. However…I thought this movie was pretty much a disaster from beginning to end. The weird editing and staging you identify in the musical numbers and the violent struggle with Bill is endemic throughout the whole movie. Von Trier’s visual choices just seem subtly *off* somehow, consistently, like he’s always choosing, very carefully, just the wrong angle from which to shoot every scene. This is especially obvious during the musical numbers, which look like they have some interesting, mechanical choreography (and of course Bjork’s lovely songs) but are hacked to bits by the editing.I was also bothered by the hammer-to-the-head brutality of the plotting, which is just so contrived and depends on Selma making some astonishingly bad and incomprehensible decisions. It’s so often obvious that bad things are happening for no other reason than that Von Trier *wants* them to happen, not because they’re organic to the story or the characters. And the blunt anti-Americanism of some of these contrivances (like the co-worker who sings the virtues of “the US of A” like a redneck caricature) is further distracting. Von Trier is always right there, pulling the strings, manipulating things to increase Selma’s suffering, and it’s hard to engage with a tragedy so obviously manufactured for tear-jerking effect.There are things I like in the film, of course. Especially Bjork’s music and her endearing performance, but then I’ve always loved Bjork. It’s also interesting how Von Trier deconstructs Hollywood escapist fantasies: Selma retreats into musicals, but her fantasies are so makeshift, so awkward, that they can only be unsatisfying and partial escapes for the audience, who are constantly aware of the sad undercurrents of Selma’s actual life. Von Trier allows Selma to escape into fantasy, but he never grants the audience the same release. This is interesting. It’s just a shame that the film as a whole is such an ugly, dull and manipulative piece of trash. I’ve even started to doubt my love of Dogville, the only Von Trier movie I’d seen previously. How could I have loved that film so much and been turned off by this one so intensely?

Comment by Ed Howard

Pat – You’re right that the gaping holes in logic are frustrating, but again, I think that’s what von Trier was going for. In a Hollywood musical, everything is contrived to work out in the end. Here, they are contrived not to. I think von Trier was skewering the kinds of films that help Americans avoid looking at the harsh realities around them. As an anti-death penalty activist, I saw this – particularly the long scene at the gallows – as a graphic demonstration of this monstrosity that our country still condones. Selma may be going blind, but we are already blind to the great injustices – of condemning “Communists,” of looking at a white, male lawman as the good guy when he’s clearly a horrible wretch.

Comment by Marilyn

Greg- Yeah,that murder scene is HUGE problem for me, and it does take me right out of the movie, although – for me – “Smith and Wesson” brings me right back in.Interesting about the black screen, although Von Trier talks about the abstract images on the commentary track of the DVD, and I also read some comments on them from Bjork, who didn’t like them.

Comment by Pat

Great writeup on a fascinating film. My first von Triers. Just wanted to chime in; will be back later with more.

Comment by Rick Olson

I come down hard on Roger Ebert a lot lately for some of his reviews but I thought both he and Jonathan Rosenbaum offer a lot of insight into this film with their respective reviews. Ebert liked it, JR didn’t but both make valid arguments. Ebert treats it as a contrivance done for effect and JR treats it as a soap opera that has too much contrivance. Also, quickly, the “I’ve Seen it All” number is the best in the movie and the one I returned to to watch again (and build a joke around at Bill’s place). Bjork does have a hell of a voice when she wants but I admit that little kid voice she starts out in grates on my nerves.

Comment by Greg

Ed-I guess I’m just so accustomed to Von Trier’s weird editing and framing that I take for granted that’s what I’m going to get and don’t question it much. But I’m with you that they are a real problem in the musical numbers.It’s so often obvious that bad things are happening for no other reason than that Von Trier *wants* them to happen, not because they’re organic to the story or the characters.I’m totally in agreement with you. This is what I was trying to get at when I talked about what didn’t work for me on repeat viewings,but you said it better. The murder scene is the most glaring example of this,but all of Selma’s bad,illogical choices grow out of this central flaw.

Comment by Pat

I liked Bjork totally, including her singing. It is so haunting to me. Her lyrics were kind of awkward, and I liked how the production numbers got more strained as the rush from reality got harder and harder. The opening of the film is not very good, IMO. I turned it off the first time I tried to watch it during the first private conversation between Morse and Bjork. I was just totally bored. But seeing past that part put me into the best parts of the film.Deneuve is hard to see in parts like this because she’s so pretty. She did a great job, but working in a factory? She just didn’t look the part.

Comment by Marilyn

But, Pat, is it a central flaw. If you look at this as the anti-American-film film, this just shows up the illogic in films that make us happy. Remember how Jeff talks about how people don’t just break into song in the middle of doing their thing. DITD makes these interludes clearly fantasies, which makes them more real in a way than the reality Bjork faces. There is so much wrong with what happens in the real life of this film, that it’s the dream.

Comment by Marilyn

Marilyn -Very interesting perspective.I considered that Von Trier was condemning the kinds of musicals that Americansuse to escape from reality, but then what do we make of the fact that Selma’s most beloved musical star is a Czech dancer who ostensibly appeared in Czech films? I don’t think that escapist musicals are limited to Amercian culture – although we probably make the best-known ones. (I did a post last year – I think as part of your dance blogathon) on “East Side Story,” a documentary about Sovie-era Communist musicals, so that genre is everywhere.)The gallows scene is indeed,and properly, horrifying. The whole business about protracting her suffering by dithering around about whether she has to wear the hood is just inhuman.

Comment by Pat

I’ll agree with what seems to be the consensus so far: the one thing that totally worked for me about this film was Bjork. I’ve always loved her music, so it’s no surprise that I dig her singing and arrangements here. What is surprising is how much I liked her acting. Her childlike persona can sometimes be a bit grating in interviews and such, but here I thought it totally worked. She just brings so much subtlety and warmth to Selma, who otherwise might’ve just been a stick figure for Von Trier to heap suffering on. My favorite scene is when Kathy and Selma go to see a musical, and when Kathy realizes that Selma can’t see the screen at all, she begins tapping out the rhythms of the dancing on her friend’s palm. The look of joy on Selma’s face is heartbreaking and deeply moving. This scene reminds me a great deal of Herzog’s Land of Silence and Darkness.

Comment by Ed Howard

Greg-I can see Ebert’s point about “Dancer” being a contrivance for effecct,and yet, that’s what bothers me most. Selma’s tragedies are so horrible and Bjork’s performance is so emotionally raw that it seems cruel to use her a allegorical device. In “Dogville,”the artificiality of the staging gave us some emotional distance from the characters so we could consider them more coolly. No such distance is given us from the characters in “Dancer in the Dark,” which makes it a grueling film to watch.

Comment by Pat

I think mentioning where she got her love of musicals is important for Von Trier – it’s like he is saying, “Hollywood isn’t the only place where films are made.” But I think it’s possible to accept that he is still condemning the illogic of the American musical (we do them the best, which is the prosecutor’s sole “kind” word about Selma’s world view) – that we escape from our responsibility most spectacularly.Consider, too, that finding Novy helps condemn Selma. Von Trier is definitely anti-escapism.

Comment by Marilyn

Deneuve is hard to see in parts like this because she’s so pretty. She did a great job, but working in a factory? She just didn’t look the part….Boy, I’ve been fighting that fight since two beautiful people named Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty played homely midwesterners Bonnie and Clyde but everyone always tells me to get over it so I’m glad to see Marilyn had the same problem. I don’t see a beautiful French working in a Pacific Northwest factory. Still, she is excellent in the role. And building on something Pat mentioned near the end of her review: Selma makes grand martyrdom choices for her son’s eyesight although we are never given any depth with their relationship so we don’t care. von Triers makes the central relationship between Selma and Kathy. I can see Selma or Kathy making a great sacrifice for the other but as to her son the movie hasn’t gotten me emotionally involved in what should be the important relationship. Except for a couple of early scenes, we don’t even see them together. And speaking of contrivances – Giving the lawyer the EXACT amount, including 10 cents, that was what Selma had saved? That means Kathy and Jeff didn’t contribute even a dollar, dime or nickel to help her out. Wow, some friends! But of course the real reason the lawyer is given the exact amount to the dime is so we can clearly see that Selma’s choice is between her own defense and her son’s eyesight. That manipulation was too blunt to work on me on any emotional level.

Comment by Greg

Marilyn said: This just shows up the illogic in films that make us happy … DITD makes these interludes clearly fantasies, which makes them more real in a way than the reality Bjork faces. There is so much wrong with what happens in the real life of this film, that it’s the dream….That’s an interesting perspective, but I don’t know if I buy that Von Trier intends for us to see what happens to Selma as a “dream” or anything like that. I think this is his idea of what reality is really like, especially since so many of his stylistic choices — the jittery camera, the drained color palette, the drab scenery — seem intended to connote “realism.” But it’s not reality, it’s this jury-rigged contrivance by which Von Trier can make the points he wants to make. I think it’s ironic that Von Trier, in critiquing escapism, has made a film with as little connection to tangible, lived reality as the Hollywood musicals he’s mocking.

Comment by Ed Howard

It’s a given that there are huge holes in this film from start to finish. I have to believe that Von Trier knew that. He created a women’s film with Selma and Gene – the sacrifice of mother love, another Hollywood propaganda contrivance. Bjork made it convincing, thwarting his plans a bit, I think. I think Von Trier would have been happier if she hadn’t acted so well – I think his choice was deliberate, a nonactor, but she fooled him.As an aside, Von Trier was extremely humanistic in the very supernatural “The Kingdom,” where Ugo Kier, the doctor in this film, plays the personification of evil and the tragic, angelic progency of himself and another doctor in the hospital. It was good to see him again.

Comment by Marilyn

Marilyn -Von Trier originally wrote the role of Kathy for a 35-year-old African-American woman,but cast Deneuve after she wrote him fan letter asking to be cast in one of his films. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with her – she has a lovely, maternal sort of chemistry with Bjork,and you know, sometimes even attractive people do menial work to make ends meet.As for the contrivances,I take your point. But also think the plot contrivances in this film are clumsier – or maybe just more apparent to me – than they are in happier films. Maybe this gets back to Ed’s point about the fact that we get no emotional release from the musical numbers because we know we’re always going to return to Selma’s grim reality.Ed-Have you seen Herzog’s Stroszek? That’s supposed to be one of Von Trier’s insprirations for this film. I put it in my Netflix queue, but wasn’t able to get to it.

Comment by Pat

as to her son the movie hasn’t gotten me emotionally involved in what should be the important relationship. Except for a couple of early scenes, we don’t even see them together….This was a big problem for me too. Not only do Selma and her son not have a well-developed relationship, but in fact Selma’s treatment of him is often rather cruel and distanced, like she can’t be bothered to forge any kind of emotional connection with her own son. This is another case where Von Trier goes out of his way to justify what he wants to show, but it just doesn’t work. I thought the reason why Selma can’t tell her son anything about his condition — that he’ll worry too much and make his eyesight worse — is poorly explained and ridiculous. It’s just an excuse to create barriers between Selma and her son, to explain why she never draws close to him or has a meaningful conversation with him. This contrivance also powers a lot of Selma’s bad decisions in the film’s second half, and again it seems like a pretty poor motivation. It’s because of this that she doesn’t defend herself at all, and since the reasoning is so illogical, it’s obvious that Von Trier is just cobbling together excuses for more suffering, more misery.

Comment by Ed Howard

Ed – Von Trier may see real life as insane, and indeed, we’ve all had instances where truth is stranger than fiction. Nonetheless, what he chooses to critique tends to be very real, espcially capital punishment.Just one note on Selma’s putting her cash in a cookie tin – I have a very good friend, Korean, who says her culture is a cash culture. People keep enormous amounts of money in their homes. She herself had $20,000 in cash in a small safe in her basement.

Comment by Marilyn

Pat, if Stroszek was the inspiration for this film, Von Trier totally missed the point. That film makes some similar points — foreigners’ fantasies about America don’t live up to reality; the naive and innocent will suffer; life is cruel — but the film is more than just a barrage of misery because Herzog has a real humanist affection for his characters, who are so much deeper and richer in their relationships and actions than Von Trier’s marionettes. It’s a great movie, and features another great non-actor performance, from former mental patient Bruno S.

Comment by Ed Howard

So was von Triers really trying to make a parody of soap opera but Bjork’s performance was too good? Maybe but the realistic nature of the photography and improvisational style of many of the scenes makes me think von Triers simply thinks he has written a good and powerful drama. I don’t know though because this is the only von Triers I have seen.

Comment by Greg

Okay, I pretty much hated this. I’d seen it before, a while ago, and I knew I had problems with it going into this second viewing, but I couldn’t quite remember what they were. Then it all came rushing back.Most of them have already been touched on. The musical numbers are terrible. They’re horribly shot, as you point out, Pat, and I didn’t much like the songs, either, though that’s pretty subjective.The thing that bothered me most was the amount of deck-stacking Von Trier has to go through in order to put across his point of view. Things are so hard for this immigrant woman who is going blind and has to save money for her son who will definitely go blind, too, but he can have an operation when he gets to a certain age, although she can’t tell him that because then he’ll get stressed, which will make him go blinder, but she’s saving money for this operation, and it’s a secret, for some reason, although she confides to one person who is unfortunately really broke, too, and his brokeness makes him no longer a nice person, and she has to murder him for some reason, but won’t speak a word in her own defense because of her son and the money even though it would probably all work out as well as it could if she would just tell the truth about what happened and why, and when she hangs it’s because she’s foreign, really, not because she won’t be honest about the situation, and isn’t America just awful how America treats it’s blind immigrants who instantly clam up when their life is on the line?Marilyn, the movie isn’t showing us the potential folly of assuming that white male cops are nice. Von Trier MADE him nice, and then MADE him a “wretch”. He turned on a dime. Sometimes people do that (and sometimes the people who do that are neither white nor cops, if you can belive that), but it has nothing to do with our assumptions.

Comment by bill r.

My review of Stroszek.Ed – I think you’re right. Von Trier just isn’t as skilled a director as Herzog. Or perhaps not as good a scenarist. DITD is a long film, and I think perhaps it would have been a lot longer if Von Trier had filmed it the way he wrote it. I imagine that he’s rather a clumsy writer whose semingly arbitrary edits reflect how long it takes him to make a point. That’s my fantasy, of course, but I bet I’m right.

Comment by Marilyn

She herself had $20,000 in cash in a small safe in her basement…So uh, could you introduce me?Another problem with the mother/son relationship is that nothing is fleshed out even when they are together. We first see him being brought to the factory in a police car and Selma and Kathy are both upset that he is headed down the wrong path. So I foolishly assumed, this movie will explore a relationship between these two where she must hope he understands the direction of his life. Nope! Doesn’t happen. That little plot device disappears without a trace. Then he is given a second hand bike as a gift. She doesn’t want to accept it but finally does. Ah, now I see, they will explore how he feels neglected and perhaps how… [sound effect of needle scratching across record] Nope! That doesn’t happen either. Bye bye latest plot device. Down the memory hole with you too!As such, nothing ever develops in that relationship that makes me care about it.

Comment by Greg

Ed- To be honest,I think the biggest influence on Dancer in the Dark from Stoszekis that Selma lives in a trailer. I’d have to go back to the Von Trier interview to be sure.Greg,Marilyn-I’ve never had any sense than Von Trier was trying to parody Hollywood weepies here. I do know that Dancer is the third in a “Golden Heart” trilogy that starts with Breaking the Waves, and includes The Idiots which is apparently unavaiable on Region 1 DVD. So I tend to compare it most closely with Waves, another film about female self-sacrifice. Waves has some supericial resemblance to a Hollywood weepie as well, now that I think of it. This is something I’d like to chew on for a bit and come back to later.

Comment by Pat

Marilyn – What Von Trier is critiquing is very real, but the way he goes about it is by exaggerating and twisting reality to such an extent that he actually obscures his point. Bill just did a great job of summing up how ridiculous this plot is, and “deck stacking” is a great term for what Von Trier’s doing. I’m very much anti-death penalty, so I appreciate the thrust of that ending, but in the context of the film, Selma mainly went to her death because Von Trier made her make horrible and illogical decisions that almost no one would ever actually make in reality. Her situation is just so artificial, so obviously constructed from start to finish, that it’s hard to make the leap back to the reality that’s being critiqued.The whole film is an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine designed to hang Selma.

Comment by Ed Howard

Hey Pat (& Everyone)-You mentioned Selma as martyr at the end of your write-up, and that's approrpriate, because it's how I think Von Trier sees himself. I think he probably fancies himself beyond just provocateur and more as a filmmaker that will take critical bullets for the good of the art. It's self-obsession in my opinion… why else have your name dwarf the title of the movie after the overture?On the "lapses in logic", I agree with you, but I think Von Trier does that purposely to manipulate the audience. Just as in Breaking The Waves, we can see the eventual hell coming early on, and I think Von Trier gets a kind of sadistic pleasure from slowly rolling it out. The infuriating way Selma doesn’t defend herself in court and keeps her promise with Bill to “not tell” is rising foreplay and the excruciating screams of Selma at the gallows is the climax, for Von Trier. I bet he smiled while people cried.That aspect of Von Trier is frustratng to me b/c I think he has a skilled hand at storytelling, camerawork, and especially editing. (Pat, I know you didn’t like the editing of the dance sequences, particularly the court room one, but I think overall the editing gives Dancer an unique visual rhythm: a nice flow of information and punctuation.)

Comment by Fox

Bill – Welcome! I think a lot us are on the same page with you about all that deck stacking. (And I love the way you sum it all up in that run-on sentence!)

Comment by Pat

Thanks, Pat. I forgot to add that the blind lady always has a ride. The story wouldn’t go anywhere if Jeff didn’t pop up conveniently every fifteen minutes or so. The only reason he’s in love with Selma is because Von Trier needed an excuse for him and his car to be in the movie.By the way, on a positive note, Bjork was absolutely terrific, as was David Morse. It’s just a shame that they were great in this.

Comment by bill r.

Believe me, it’s a big surprise that I’m defending this film. I hated Breaking the Waves’s script so much, I refused to see the film, and, as I said, my first attempt at watching this was aborted.I don’t think Von Trier is the best writer or technician. He is, I believe, a good director, and I liked most of the musical numbers until after the railroad one (the best of them all, but the factory rhythm one is great, too). After than, I think they were purposely short, staccato, unpleasant to track with Selma’s circumstances.Bill – Morse’s character may have been a nice guy, but in the end, he is shown to be a coward through and through. Selma is the courageous one, and perhaps Von Trier dooms her to show her courage. I don’t know if this is just a coincidence, but the Prague Spring was only 3 years away, so it’s rather fitting that courage would be shown by a Czech national. Again, though, this may only be coincidence.

Comment by Marilyn

Fox -Very good points. Von Trier has, in fact,said that all his suffering female heroines really represent him,so that’s as astute call. Ed et al -Here’s some interesting background on the hanging scene: Von Trier deliberately chose Washington State as the location of Dancer because they used hanging a method of execution. He wanted a hanging at the end of his film because he was influenced by the phrase “tap dancing at the end of a rope” -thus invoking both musicals and death in the same image.Marilyn, I’d like to believe that VonTrier was condemning capital punishment in that scene, but given this background info(which I’d read earlier, but just came to mind when I read Fox’s comment), I’m not so sure. Thoughts?

Comment by Pat

Bill – I think we’re all crazy about Bjork, but, yes, Morse is great,too. Except for the murder scene, but like I said,no one’s convincing in that, and I blame Von Trier.In that scene where Morse watches Bjork hide the money, he just blows me away every time. It’s so subtle, but so chilling.

Comment by Pat

Marilyn, I know Morse was a bad guy in the end. You can’t really miss that revelation. My point is that the character’s change is meaningless as social commentary, which you seemed to imply was one of its strengths. Apologies if I misunderstood you.

Comment by bill r.

By the way, the not defending yourself for no good reason also infuriated me with The Contender where [SPOILER] the whole movie would have ended in five minutes if Joan Allen had simply revealed, which she had evidence for, that it wasn’t her in the picture. But she didn’t so we could see her nobly suffer for two hours. [END SPOILER}Same with Dancer, where the non-defense is infuriating. As Bill says, how can I feel sorry for someone who is walking by their own means to their death?

Comment by Greg

Did anyone else think that Catherine Deneuve looked really uncomfortable whenever she had to take part in the dance numbers? I feel like she knew they were going to look awful, and she probably hadn’t been directed as thoroughly as she might have liked.

Comment by bill r.

On critiquing the death penalty, anti-Communist persecution, etc….Those things have a place in art, in film, but Von Trier handling them is like a TV pundit throwing bombs to start a ratings bonanza.I don’t think he weighs the honest emotions involved with the death penalty or fears of Communism. I think Von Trier simply wants to sneer at people (Americans) who feel differently than he does.

Comment by Fox

Bill – that’s a good point about Deneuve, although I took it as Kathy just sort of reluctantly going along with Selma’s usual foolishness.

Comment by Pat

although I took it as Kathy just sort of reluctantly going along with Selma’s usual foolishness…In the fantasy sequences, too, though?

Comment by bill r.

Did anyone else think that Catherine Deneuve looked really uncomfortable whenever she had to take part in the dance numbers? …The one if the factory is done so that she is supposed to be uncomfortable I thought. And don’t you wonder how Selma ever got cast as Maria, even if the director does like her?Also, I don’t mind side-characters whose lives are not fully explored in a movie but I did start to wonder about Kathy. I mean, she’s there to help on the regular shift, there to help on the night shift, there to help at rehearsal, there to help at the eye doctor – Christ! Does she have any time when she is not at Selma’s beck and call?

Comment by Greg

Well, Fox, the death penalty is barbaric. From my point of view, there is no other side. Perhaps Von Trier feels that way, too. I also thought the anti-Communist stuff was a very small part of this film; it barely didn’t register for me – only as a tactic at the trial did it have any virulence, but then, everything the prosecutor said was wrong from the film viewer’s POV.Pat – I don’t think Morse’s character had a change – it was always there, just never tested before.

Comment by Marilyn

I mean, she’s there to help on the regular shift, there to help on the night shift, there to help at rehearsal, there to help at the eye doctor – Christ! Does she have any time when she is not at Selma’s beck and call?…No, because as this film makes clear, Europeans (who were all over Washington state in the 60s, apparently) are on the whole far nicer than Americans.

Comment by bill r.

Marilyn -I don’t think Morse’s character had a change – it was always there, just never tested before.I don’t disagree. But we don’t see that shift until the scene with Selma, and when we see it, it’s electrifying.

Comment by Pat

Also, I don’t mind side-characters whose lives are not fully explored in a movie but I did start to wonder about Kathy. I mean, she’s there to help on the regular shift, there to help on the night shift, there to help at rehearsal, there to help at the eye doctor – Christ! Does she have any time when she is not at Selma’s beck and call?…Agreed. And again, I think that is all due to Von Trier’s convenient universe to get to the ends he wants to get at (which isn’t something I mind in films/storytelling, I just didn’t like the ends in Dancer in the Dark.)

Comment by Fox

It’s always there? What was always there? His thoughts of suicide and desperation following his complete financial and marital collapse?You guys are taking Morse’s character to task far more harshly than I suspect you would had the film been about him. Are there no sympathetic or empathetic thoughts for a guy who seemed to be a nice, helpful person until his life went down the shitter? Not to excuse what he did, but I think even Von Trier intended more sympathy for the guy then he’s getting here.

Comment by bill r.

Bill in the fantasy sequences too,though?Well, yes,I think it’s possible that Selma could fantasize Kahty as reluctant participant in her production numbers. Greg-And don’t you wonder how Selma ever got cast as Maria, even if the director does like her?Yes, I did wonder that, although I’m not sure the director likes her so much as just kind of indulges her and feels sorry for her. He does get her a understudy and makes up a pretty lame reason as to why, he isn’t all that broken up when she quits,and he talks trash about her singing and dancing when she’s out of earshot.

Comment by Pat

Well, Fox, the death penalty is barbaric. From my point of view, there is no other side. Perhaps Von Trier feels that way, too….But if you wanna make that argument in your film, then why do so with a blind immigrant woman who is essentially framed and put to death for no good reason? It’s propaganda isntead of a compelling argument against capital punishment. It’s also bad melodrama.

Comment by Fox

Does anyone see any irony in the fact that the drama club is producing “The Sound of Music,” about a European families escape from oppression and eventual success in America, and its Bizarro opposite in Selma’s story. Was this intentional?

Comment by Marilyn

Like Bill said about Jeff being in the movie just for his car, Kathy is a plot device more than a person. That’s true of the son as well. Deneuve is a good actress, though, and brings much more to the part than it really requires. The scenes between her and Selma are some of the best and most humanist in the film, and you can feel the two actresses working against the film and its director at these points, creating poignancy and depth that just isn’t there otherwise.I’m also glad Von Trier cast Deneuve so we could be spared the black woman character and Von Trier’s “insights” about race in America (I haven’t seen Manderlay yet).Marilyn, I agree with you completely about the death penalty, and I think it’s unquestionable that Von Trier is making an anti-death penalty statement here. It’s an extraordinarily ineffective and poorly thought-out statement, though. Just because I agree with the idea behind it doesn’t make it good or worthwhile.

Comment by Ed Howard

Wow. Great comments already. Took me a while to read ’em and I bet I miss a few while I’m writing this.I found this movie to be fascinating and pretty much everything everybody says it is. I think anybody who critiques this movie as NOT a screed is barking up the wrong tree. Expecting no gaping logical holes in this thing is just exactly what Von Trier is critiquing, at least in part: the desire for audiences — not just American ones — to have everything tidy and wrapped up in neat logical bows.Here in the South, if you go over to the “black” side of the tracks, you will see no banks. Why? Because black folks can’t get bank accounts. Many of them use cash almost exclusively. Selma saving in a tin is wholly in keeping with that. As is her belief that his sight will get worse: who hasn’t misinterpreted what a doctor has said? And with English as a second language? Please. As to why nobody told her, it was a secret, remember?I thought Morse’s performance was interesting. It was lucky Bjork had a seasoned actor to play against. He’s been playing a lot more bad guys recently — he played a serial murderer in a film and a bad cop in “House” a couple of seasons ago — and he does it very well. I do not consider him “turning on a dime,” it was obvious to me that he was a weak man from the outset.The murder scene was over the top bad: I think it was, again, Von Trier f–ing with our expectations. The scene mirrored Bill’s weaknesses: he was a mass of contradictions, and so was the scene. He hated himself for what he was doing, yet couldn’t stop. In his violent world — another critique of America? — asking her to kill him was the only way he could think of to expunge his guilt.I loved the musical number on the train — it was surreal and very well edited, in my humble opinion. The others? Not so much, although they all had little moments of surreal grace.Fine writeup and a great discussion so far.

Comment by Rick Olson

Fox – Selma was not framed. She did the deed, and I would have no qualls, no matter how sympathetic I find her, with having her remain in prison to serve a manslaughter sentence. Her situtation isn’t really all that unusual, if you read about the mentally disabled people who have been convicted and put to death or even the many innocent people who have been condemned and even executed. What difference does it make if she’s blind?

Comment by Marilyn

Bill makes a good point about Morse.I think any of us have it within ourselves to do what Bill did if forced into desperate circumstances. I think Bill has the same capacity for wrongdoing as any of the rest of us,but we don’t see him make the swich until he’s given an opportunity at a time when he’s particularly vulnerable.

Comment by Pat

Good point, Marilyn, though if Von Trier intended that association I have to think he’d really drive it home in the film itself. It’s not like him to be so subtle…

Comment by Ed Howard

Because black folks can’t get bank accounts……What? I live in the South, too, Rick. I think you’re speaking a bit too broadly, there.

Comment by bill r.

Not to excuse what he did, but I think even Von Trier intended more sympathy for the guy then he’s getting here….Bill-I think you’re right about the intended sympathy, I just don’t think it fleshes out too well.For example, had Von Trier wanted us to think that Bill was a conniving bastard from the very beginning, he would have shown Bill as only a conniver. But we see him in nice moments as when he’s joking with Jeff and when he’s talking about musicals with Selma.Again, I think this kinda gets lost when – as Pat says – Bill turns on a dime, but I can see where your coming from.

Comment by Fox

As one having grown up in Washington State in the 60s, I can assure you that yes, immigrants were all over the state in the 60s. Seattle is a major seaport, and the timber and manufacturing industries have been exploiting immigrants with the best of ’em for a long time.And I bet one of the reasons Von Trier chose Washington is that hanging is so barbaric and, well, visual.Bill’s right: Morse is very good. I just think his betrayal is in keeping with how he started, and it’s clearly due to weakness, i.e., he’s a weak man versus Selma’s strength.

Comment by Rick Olson

..What? I live in the South, too, Rick. I think you’re speaking a bit too broadly, there. …Not overstated at all. Here in Tuscaloosa, in the deep south, on the black side of the tracks, there are no banks. It has been explained to me by more than one person that it’s because many of them — of course, not all — cannot get credit and/or accounts.

Comment by Rick Olson

Rick – Good to hear from you,and very good insgihts. I humbly stand corrected on the candy tin thing, but them I have an tendency to overthink some of these things.I have a bit of problem with Von Trier (and some other European directors,Michael Haneke comes to mind) who condemn American audiences for wanting things to be logical and to make sense. I welcome some ambiguity and messiness in films,but there’s a big difference between a little tantalzing ambiguity and just throwing a whole bunch of stuff together (see Bill’s run-on sentence above) and calling me a “stupid,bourgeouis American” if I have a problem with that.I’m not asking that everything be tied up with a pretty bow, but can’t the deck stacking be executed a little more judicisously?

Comment by Pat

The hubby, a former Southerner, should be joining the discussion soon.He thanked me for turning him on to the film, then after the end, was angry at me.”I just do what I’m assigned,” is all I said.

Comment by Marilyn

What difference does it make if she’s blind?…Because it just adds to her “poor victim” scenario. It works as pity. She’s the perfect argument to use in an anti-death penalty argument.I think there are plenty of good anti-death penalty arguments, but using Selma as a test case is overly ridiculous to me. Here trial and her punishment is a gross oversimplification of injustice. In fact, it insults injustice by seeing it such soap opera terms.I said “essentially” framed. Perhaps framed is the wrong word, but what I meant to say is that Von Trier wants to show us that she was coaxed into doing what she did.

Comment by Fox

Okay, Rick, I’m not from your part of the South (though I would ask who is explaining this to you?), but that’s not an issue in my neck of the woods.

Comment by bill r.

Because black folks can’t get bank accounts……What? I live in the South, too, Rick. I think you’re speaking a bit too broadly, there…I grew up in the South, deep down at the bottom of South Carolina, and even in the early seventies I don’t recall black people not able to get bank accounts. Pre-civil rights under Jim Crow, sure, but after, nope, don’t remember that. Back to the film, I think the bad guy of the movie is the judicial system but von Triers fails to make them bad. In other words, Selma doesn’t hang because the American Judicial System railroaded her, she hangs because she consciously chose not to defend herself. I too am against the death penalty for multiple reasons. Everything from it’s state sanctioned murder, doesn’t deter anyone (can you imagine someone in the heat of the moment stopping himself and saying “Wait, I might get the death penalty”), isn’t punishment (once you’re dead you’re dead, i.e. no more punishment through suffering), etc. etc. etc. There are probably a hundred other reasons someone might be against the death penalty.Von Triers doesn’t use one of them. That sends me the undeniable signal that here is someone, like many I have met in life, who is against (or for) something without really knowing why. And yet he still made the movie which sends another signal that perhaps he’s not a very smart person.

Comment by Greg

BTW, Greg, my Korean friend just moved to Baltimore…

Comment by Marilyn

Her situtation isn’t really all that unusual, if you read about the mentally disabled people who have been convicted and put to death or even the many innocent people who have been condemned and even executed…. But at the same time, it’s a combination of Selma’s own choices and Von Trier’s rigged plotting that get her to this point, all but assuring that she’ll be found guilty and sentenced to death. You couldn’t find a situation in real life so perfectly contrived to send a woman to her death. As a critique of the death penalty, it fails because it doesn’t really get at the very REAL unfairnesses and injustices built into the REAL system. The hanging scene is horrifying, but everything that gets Selma to that point is so distant from reality that it’s hard to make the mental connections back to real hangings, real executions. I’m not saying a film has to be strictly realist to make a political point, but its allegory should have some tangible relationship with the real world, and I don’t think Von Trier is able to make those connections. You blamed this on his writing earlier, and that’s probably about right, since a lot of the film’s problems arise at the screenplay stage.

Comment by Ed Howard

And Rick, I’ve now seen your response to Bill. I suppose someone from a poor area might not have credit, so I can understand that but all one needs for a bank account is a valid i.d. which can be had by anyone, by law. So, like Bill, I’d be a little skeptical of those explanations.

Comment by Greg

I don’t see the judicial system as being corrupt because we hardly saw the trial and never saw the defense in action. We get the old “public defender = incompetent” thing thrown in, but basically, the trial was just too truncated to make any sense of. As I said, I think von Trier probably discarded a small grove of trees when he had to make cuts in the script. Sometimes it’s ok to blame editing for length for problems with a film. I hate to keep bringing “The Kingdom” up, but its length as a TV series shows how good von Trier can be when he has a lot of time to develop a story.

Comment by Marilyn

Pat, I personally don’t think anybody’s petty or bourgeois just because they like things to make logical sense, but I think that’s surely the point Von Trier makes. And I don’t know whether, in making that point, he condemns folks who do, but knowing his rep he probably is.Like Marilyn, I’m surprised to be defending this film. I liked Bjork but not as much as many of you all did. I thought her performance was pretty one-note (albeit a very good note), and it’s lucky that there were some good actors around her to make up the difference, Peter Stormare for one.I thought Stormare’s arc was interesting: we suspect the worst, because he has that Eastern European accent and he comes on like a stalker, but he turns out to be one of the best. Another of Von Trier’s comment on going by surface appearances, on xenophobia?

Comment by Rick Olson

As Greg says, anybody can get a bank account, provided they have a valid ID and enough money (usually not very much, sometimes virtually nothing) to open an account. And moreover, there are very strict federal regulations against redlining, which are specifically intended to prevent banks from roping off poor/minority areas and refusing to lend to them. If there are no banks on the “black” side of the tracks, then the banks on the white side would be more or less required by federal regulation to lend and reach out into the black neighborhoods or risk federal penalties and audits. I work for a bank (up north), in case you can’t tell…

Comment by Ed Howard

though I would ask who is explaining this to you? …The head of philosophy and religion at Stillman College, a black institution on “that side” of the tracks, for one, and the head of the West Tuscaloosa chamber of commerce, for another.

Comment by Rick Olson

I don’t see the judicial system as being corrupt because we hardly saw the trial and never saw the defense in action…And that’s what I find so frustrating. What I get from the film is von Triers blaming everyone but Selma but his incompetent screenplay makes the Selma the most blameworthy and I don’t think he’s cleverly trying to play with our expectations. I think he actually is kind of dumb. I mean, I knew quite a few playwrights in my theatre days and you’d be surprised how many people want to write plays or movies who aren’t very skilled at writing plays or movies. But I haven’t seen The Kingdom so maybe I am completely wrong.

Comment by Greg

“very strict federal regulations against redlining”Not the first law to be broken in this country by banks.

Comment by Marilyn

Astonishing thread! I regard this film as my favorite of 2000, and I pretty much said what I needed to say at Ric Burke’s Films For the Soul, where I entered a full review last month. But for sure, Bjork is electrifying and the fusion of the melodious numbers and the deeper philosophical issues make for a wrenching, draining emotional experience, similar to the one experienced while watching Dennis Potter’s PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, from which it unabashedly borrows from.Marilyn’s review is a staggering achievement.

Comment by Sam Juliano

Rick -Pat, I personally don’t think anybody’s petty or bourgeois just because they like things to make logical sense…Yes, I know that, Rick. Sorry. I have no problem with you or your interpretation,just blowing off a little steam at Von Trier.

Comment by Pat

Okay, I’m late to this and my apologies for it. But I will comment before reading all the comments, so if I’ve covered old ground, again my apologies.Pat, this is a wonderful write-up. I watched the film last night and you hit all the parts that stood out to me.I would also like to comment about a few other things. To me, the set-up to the downfall seemed a bit too “set-up”. Why would Bill confide in Selma. It’s not like he went to her for advice. It may have been nothing more than he needed to get it off his chest, but it almost seemed too convenient. The shooting was very strange to me. Too drawn out and Bill’s wife was a mess. It was obvious that he was hurt and she didn’t do anything about it. I guess what turned this movie for me – turned it into something so rich. Something that made it forever memorable would be the courtroom scene. I have posted the dance number on my site in honor of today and I can’t get it out of my head. It’s so hopeful and I have thought how interesting/unsettling/frustrating would it be if Von Trier had ended the film there. To me, that’s where Selma really came to life. And that’s where I realized how fantastic Bjork was in this role. Her voice so childlike and yet so strong. Her actions, so giddy. It really was her shining moment.From there, the movie then fell apart. I really, really hated that she was hung half-way through her song. I saw it coming a mile away and it felt so heavy-handed. At the end, I immediately went back to the courtroom scene quite possibly as an escape from such a brutal ending.By the way, as you can probably see by now. I brought my cat. He’s got that hairless disease, but he really is a lovable cat once you spend a couple of weeks with him.

Comment by PIPER

Fox – I think you’re right about the intended sympathy, I just don’t think it fleshes out too well…Maybe, but my question is really this: why does everyone have so much less sympathy for the guy who stole money out of desperation than for the woman who killed out of desperation?And speaking of the killing, remember when the prosecutor (full-on stock villain, of course) said that Selma’s crime was extremely well-planned? That was a joke, right? Event his erroneus presentation of how it went down could never, ever be described as “well-planned”.

Comment by bill r.

Guys, I’m sorry you have “trouble with my explanations,” but I’m just saying what I know, and why her keeping the money in a tin didn’t seem all that out of line.I’m defending Von Trier’s film on artistic lines, not on ideological ones. I try to keep the two separate.

Comment by Rick Olson

Greg – I don’t think von Trier is dumb. Complainign about the disappearance of Gene is a legitimate gripe, but if you could have seen the relationship between Ugo Kier (a 12-ft-tall baby) and his mother – a very unlikely relationship to say the least – you’d have no doubt of how affecting he can be in developing a relationship over time. Even in this film, people have rightly pointed out how Bjork and Deneuve have a very affecting relationship.

Comment by Marilyn

Rick-Your scenario and what you know and believe is your own, but certainly you would agree that you can’t speak for “the South”. That’s just unfair.

Comment by Fox

Not the first law to be broken in this country by banks…. Fair enough. The point still being, if there are no banks in the black neighborhoods where Rick lives, it’s probably not because blacks can’t get bank accounts.

Comment by Ed Howard

Sam -Good to see you here. I’m anxious to go read your review now (as I’ve been studiously avoiding othe reviews till my own was completed.)There are indeed many similarities to Pennies from Heaven , a film which I think is sadly underrated.

Comment by Pat

Pat did the review, Sam, and yes, it is a staggering achievement.

Comment by Marilyn

As Greg says, anybody can get a bank account, provided they have a valid ID and enough money (usually not very much, sometimes virtually nothing) to open an account. And moreover, there are very strict federal regulations against redlining …Sorry Ed, this is quite simply untrue. Yes there are federal laws against redlining, and against discrimination, but do you think that stops banks from discriminating? Especially around here, where they’ve been doing it for decades?

Comment by Rick Olson

Another of Von Trier’s comment on going by surface appearances, on xenophobia?I never saw him as a stalker, myself. If I had, I think it would have had more to do with the fact that he was played specifically by Peter Stormare than the fact that he wasn’t American. And Von Trier clearly has a lot more problems with xenophobia (towards Americans) than most Americans I’ve met.

Comment by bill r.

Ed – De facto, you can’t get a bank acount if you don’t have a bank.

Comment by Marilyn

Piper – Sorry I missed you – I’m having a bit of trouble keeping up with this comments thread. Welcome to you and your hairless cat!By the courtroom scene,I assume you are referring to the musical number with Joel Grey (I’ll have to take a look at your site to be sure.) I love that Grey is in the film,and I wish he’d been showcased a little better the final edit of that number.

Comment by Pat

I’m certainly not so naive as to think that banks follow the rules or that discrimination has been ended, but are you really saying that a black person could walk into a bank with some money, ask to open an account, and be told “no, your credit is too bad”? Because I do find that hard to believe even making allowances for the persistance of discrimination in the South.

Comment by Ed Howard

Even in this film, people have rightly pointed out how Bjork and Deneuve have a very affecting relationship…Marilyn, you’re right about that and I think they do carry that off very well. With von Trier I meant politically speaking he doesn’t seem able to support his views through logical argumentation in the film and therefore maybe shouldn’t be making the movie if he is not the man for the job. I don’t deny he may do great things or that his other works may be great but in this one work, the plot mechanics made me feel the man behind the camera was not the sharpest pencil in the box.

Comment by Greg

There are indeed many similarities to Pennies from Heaven , a film which I think is sadly underrated.I’m glad you brought up Dennis Potter in your review, Pat — if you hadn’t, I would have — and since I didn’t watch the credits, I have to ask if anyone did, and if they noticed if Von Trier ever gave Potter a tip of the hat? If he did, it should have read something like:”To Dennis Potter, who I stole from, and who was better at this than me.”Sorry, but I really disliked this film, in case you can’t tell. Like Ed, I’m even questioning my love for Dogville now.And PS – Von Trier’s new film, Antichrist (which I claimed to be looking forward to) is getting ripped to shreds at Cannes. I’m actually no less interested in seeing it for that, but I thought I’d mention it. Some of the talk on the web about the film’s reaction is pretty amusing.

Comment by bill r.

Pat,Yes, the scene with Grey. I believe the song is titled In A Musical. I hate to take this back to the film because the thread is interesting but is it possible that Bjork going to pay for her son’s operation was all part of her crazy imagination?

Comment by PIPER

Arrgghh!!! Can we forget about Rick and the bank thing? It has nothing to do with the movie. I make this plea as an administrator of TOERIFC. E-mail Rick with your questions and/or observations about banking in the South.

Comment by Greg

Fox, first I said the South then I modified it to “Deep South,” which doesn’t include Texas. But I bet if you rooted around and asked some of your Hispanic pals you’ll see some of the same stuff going on there. (I lived in College Suction for 7 years and hung with a couple of very conservative Hispanic businessmen. Good tacos but crappy beer).And I will specify right now that it’s not over the entire South. In Atlanta, for instance, there are some very well-off African American businessmen who own banks. The race is not so important as their status and standard of living. The fact remains is that if you’re poor and especially if you speak funny, it’s not as easy buying into the financial system as it ought to be.

Comment by Rick Olson

Logic is overrated, particularly in films. Do you need to be logically convinced the death penalty is barbaric? Doesn’t his execution scene make that point much more effectively? He didn’t make that up. That’s how they did it. Now they kill people in the dead of night with as few witnesses as possible. Now we don’t get to see the dead from our wars in our newspapers. I’m fine with von Trier ripping the gauze off some shameful, politically supported activities.

Comment by Marilyn

is it possible that Bjork going to pay for her son’s operation was all part of her crazy imagination?…Ummm…no, I don’t think so. Her fantasy sequences are done as musical numbers, so for Von Trier to expect anyone to catch that a non-musical scene was intended to be viewed as fantasy would be asking too much. Though this is another problem with the film: why was Udo Kier never called in as a witness?

Comment by bill r.

Arrgghh!!! Can we forget about Rick and the bank thing?..That should have read just the bank thing, not Rick. Obviously let’s not forget about Rick. I just want to move on from the bank statement (no pun intended).Pat, as in Piper, what if the whole damn movie is just the bizarre brain ramblings of a blind simple woman. Not that von Triers intended that – AT ALL – but the movie might work better along those lines.

Comment by Greg

Arrgghh!!! Can we forget about Rick and the bank thing? It has nothing to do with the movie. I make this plea as an administrator of TOERIFC. E-mail Rick with your questions and/or observations about banking in the South.I second this notion! Third it! Fourth it! etc., etc., my point was simply that it didn’t ring false to me at all. mea culpa! mea culpa (that means my fault to all you pagans).

Comment by Rick Olson

And speaking of the killing, remember when the prosecutor (full-on stock villain, of course) said that Selma’s crime was extremely well-planned?…Bill, I am so glad you brought that up. That’s more of Von Trier’s “stacking” for ya. I think that moment folds into Greg’s comment about Von Trier not being too intelligent a filmmaker when it comes to arguing for social or political point. It’s another convenient set-up that doesn’t intrigue at all… it’s just makes one guffaw.

Comment by Fox

Bill -I can’t wait to see Antichrist, good or bad. I’m as interested in Von Trier’s crazy stuff (e.g. Manderlay) as I am in his better work.Marilyn -Just to tell you,I’m getting more and more determined to watch The Kingdom. I still recall your review,and it has always intrigued me. Your comments here only mame me want to see it more.

Comment by Pat

I’m fine with von Trier ripping the gauze off some shameful, politically supported activities.But everyone’s argument is that Von Trier’s art is bad. That’s what’s supposed to matter here, not that you agree with his politics. Which in many cases I don’t, as I’ve made clear, but I’ve also made clear that, as a film, I don’t think Dancer in the Dark is any good.

Comment by bill r.

Bill,That’s why I ask the question. It’s as if it never happened. I may be giving bad storytelling too much credit. But the hospital seemed a bit too much like fairytale land up on the hill, through the trees.And the fact that she didn’t have enough money, but the doctor still said he would do it and only wanted to give her a receipt. And to your point, they never called the doctor as a witness.

Comment by PIPER

Pat, as in Piper, what if the whole damn movie is just the bizarre brain ramblings of a blind simple woman. Not that von Triers intended that – AT ALL – but the movie might work better along those lines….I started getting that idea as I read the comments … perhaps the reason the film progressively doesn’t work — I mean, why it gets progressively less logical — is that she is retreating more and more into a dissociative state.

Comment by Rick Olson

Piper -Right, but didn’t Jeff go back to Kier’s hospital and found out about all this, which led to Kathy trying to get a new lawyer?

Comment by bill r.

Pat, as in Piper, what if the whole damn movie is just the bizarre brain ramblings of a blind simple woman. Not that von Triers intended that – AT ALL – but the movie might work better along those lines….Greg, is that a clever elbow-nudge towards the The Serpent’s Egg hallucination thread?? :)(yes, I just threw a smiley face on yo’ ass!!)

Comment by Fox

what if the whole damn movie is just the bizarre brain ramblings of a blind simple woman. Not that von Triers intended that – AT ALL – but the movie might work better along those lines.Piper and Greg-Well,anything’s possible, I guess. But which parts would be Selma’s imagination and which parts would be real? Just contemplating that possibility gives me a headache.

Comment by Pat

Not that von Triers intended that – AT ALL – but the movie might work better along those lines…Not for me it wouldn’t, and I think making a case for the film in that way is just making excuses. Not that that’s what you’re doing, but, as you may know, I have an aversion to this sort of thing.

Comment by bill r.

I didn’t even think about it, until I read about the film in a book and they suggested that the entire hospital scene seemed a bit too fairytale-ish. It’s an interesting thought.But Bill, you’re right. I can’t remember, do we ever hear if the nurse answers Jeff?

Comment by PIPER

Rick -I think Selma does start heading into more and more dissociative states from the the murder scene on. That’s a good point. But when she’s not inhabiting her muscial fantasies, the situation is pretty grim.

Comment by Pat

Logic is overrated, particularly in films. Do you need to be logically convinced the death penalty is barbaric? ..Logic is overrated in a fantasy film, sure. But von Triers is going for realistic political tract here as I see it and thus his point is weakened. The fact that the movie has fantasy sequences only reinforces that it’s essentail elements are that of realism. And as such I think he might have tried to supply some even halfway thought out arguments for his ideas. And the way he shot the hanging sequence convinced me of nothing because it was shot in such a loopy goddamn style with the hood and the singing and Kathy running up to the prisoner completely unstopped and untouched that it seemed like a poorly edited, poorly shot, poorly realized climax to a poorly edited, poorly shot, poorly realized movie. Just as the murder scene doesn’t work neither does the execution scene.

Comment by Greg

I think that moment folds into Greg’s comment about Von Trier not being too intelligent a filmmaker when it comes to arguing for social or political point…Von Trier is so convinced in the rightness of his own opinions, that the mere stating of them should be enough. He only gussies it up with story to appease the mouth-breathers.

Comment by bill r.

Bill,I don’t think anything is going to save this movie for you :)That’s my first and lass smile face ending I will ever do. EVER!

Comment by PIPER

This isn’t about politics per se, Bill, but about how von Trier made his point on the death penalty. I’ve already said that I think editing for length may have done parts of this film in. Clearly, however, von Trier, perhaps despite himself, got some affecting performances into this film. The second half of the film feels rushed; he shouldn’t have edited that so closely, whereas he should have edited the beginning and the murder scene, especially. Who do we blame for the editing? I don’t know. I’d like to. I’m not convinced von Trier is the dull pencil in this production; perhaps it was his studio, or his film editors

Comment by Marilyn

Fantastic write up, my dear. I just wanted to give you your due praise, I’ll be back when I’ve watched the movie (today or tomorrow, hopefully. Sorry, just got through the end of the semester crunch!)

Comment by Ryan Kelly

Not that von Triers intended that – AT ALL – but the movie might work better along those lines…Everyone – I was just kidding around with that. Kind of a backhanded slap at von Triers by saying his movie might be better is the whole damn thing is someone’s moronic dream. Back to the discussion.

Comment by Greg

Ryan -Thanks,and come back anytime.

Comment by Pat

Fantastic write up, my dear..How come Ryan never calls me “dear?”

Comment by Greg

I don’t think anything is going to save this movie for you…No, probably not. I don’t much like “smug” as an aesthetic choice.How come Ryan never calls me “dear?”…Back to the discussion!

Comment by bill r.

Yeah is there something between Pat and Ryan?

Comment by PIPER

Von Trier is so convinced in the rightness of his own opinions, that the mere stating of them should be enough….Exactly, and that’s what I think he does with all the scenes of Selma post-trial. I really do think his artistic arguments are like that of a soap opera.Perhaps, as Marilyn said, Von Trier just wants to rip the gauze off. Fine, but with Dancer in the Dark I think that serverly damages the art, it damages the elements of the film that I appreciated. It ruins it.

Comment by Fox

Everyone-FANTASTIC discussion so far,but I must take a lunch break here, get a little fresh air and sunshine and run a few errands. Be back in a bit. Talk amongst yourselves, dears. (See,now I’ve extended the love to everyone!)

Comment by Pat

How come Ryan never calls me “dear?” …He just doesn’t love you enough, snookums.This does remind me of the dream vs reality part of our last TOERIFC discussion, with the same players. Interesting twist, though, is that Von Trier has a couple of just plain old poorly-executed scenes, or at least that’s the way they seem. Is it because he’s just a crappy filmmaker, or is it because he wants them that way?I think that it’s at least possible they’re intended to show Selma’s increasingly fractured psyche, myself. Obviously, Von Trier knows how to direct a scene …

Comment by Rick Olson

Rick,Isn’t that a great excuse to do a bad film? Critic: But your film made no sense.Filmmaker: That’s because it was all part of someone’s imagination.Brilliant.

Comment by PIPER

Interesting twist, though, is that Von Trier has a couple of just plain old poorly-executed scenes, or at least that’s the way they seem. Is it because he’s just a crappy filmmaker, or is it because he wants them that way?Well, I don’t think he’s a crappy filmmaker, but I think he made a crappy movie this time around. I mean, does anyone think the dance sequences are well done? I feel like they’re objectively horrible, and Pat did a great job of detailing what makes them so bad. So if Von Trier can jack up his fantasy sequences, I don’t think it makes much sense to excuse the poor filmmaking in his non-fantasy sequences based on the idea that those are fantasy, too. Unless the point is that the fantasy sequences are differintiated by their uniform poorness. In which case…well, I don’t know.

Comment by bill r.

Well, I see the hubby hasn’t chimed in. I can tell you, he was enchanted with the musical sequences, and that’s when he thanked me. At the end, he was shaken deeply and was angry. Like Fox, I think the end ruined the film for him. For me (perhaps because I knew what was going to happen), I was involved with Selma’s dilemma all along. Honestly, I think the martyr things was more heavyhanded in Chicago, in which the only innocent woman on Death Row is also the only one who is hanged, and merely because she doesn’t speak English. I did not see Selma as a martyr, simply a victim of a judicial system that wasn’t tilted in her favor in the first place (though it would have been rare for a woman with a child to be executed, perhaps it was only because she killed a cop) and one that had no problems with execution.BTW, the DA in this film also played a DA on Law and Order. I kind of enjoyed seeing him make the same kinds of arguments he made on that show.

Comment by Marilyn

Obviously, Von Trier knows how to direct a scene ……I’m not so convinced that’s obvious. I think he loves the idea of film and wants badly to be a great filmmaker but isn’t quite there. I think the film had many good shots and angles but for the majority of it I felt it was poorly set-up and filmed.

Comment by Greg

I did not think the musical numbers were all bad, and some were quite good. I think, again, post-murder, the editing was brutal, and I’d really like an explanation for that. Those were also the weakest dance numbers.

Comment by Marilyn

Isn’t that a great excuse to do a bad film?Yup. Unless it’s true. Who knows?And Greg, you may be right. He may just be clumsy. I came to this one about as cold as I have ever done, I’ve never seen another of his films.And I liked the musical numbers, sorry, especially the one on the train. I thought it was wonderfully surreal, the train gliding through the country side with the men kick-dancing on the flatbed. The others don’t work as well, but they still have their moments. Deconstructing musicals was I think one of his — admittedly jumbled — projects.

Comment by Rick Olson

I said earlier and I’ll say again, I also liked the “I’ve Seen it All” number on the train. It’s on YouTube and I watched it a couple more times today already. And Rick, I wouldn’t ever think he was as clumsy as say, an Ed Wood or the like, just that I think he has ideas and things he wants to say on film that his level of talent isn’t up for.

Comment by Greg

Piggy-backing on Marilyn's hubby (ok, ok… shut up) liking the musical sequences, I want to chime in myself and say that I agree. I kind of found them charming in their sloppiness. If they had been more well choreograpged or staged or shot, I think I would have seen it as an insincere interpretation of Selma's daydreaming.Which leads me to wanting to say something positive about a movie I've pretty much trouced thus far…The "I've Seen It All" sequence was really touching to me. Yes, I like the song by itself, but I thought the interaction with her and Jeff and the scenes of workers and the husband & wife and grandma & child were sweet for a film that mostly wasn't. It was like I had my own little daydream during the movie, and I really liked it.

Comment by Fox

My senility grows every day. My apologies Pat. As Marilyn corroborates, you penned a spectacular piece here and thank you.

Comment by Sam Juliano

Hi loyal reader(listener) first time poster Shane here. Yes it is hard for poor people to get and keep bank accounts for several reasons, having been a councilor at a shelter in Atlanta I’ve first hand knowledge,which I don’t think need further beating. Also I’d like to say that as a musical aren’t we allowed to give a little in our critiquing?

Comment by Shane

One thing for the people who disliked this film: Lars von Trier was booed at Cannes for Antichrist.

Comment by Marilyn

Shane – Hi, honey! Everyone, meet the hubby.What do you mean, “give a little”?

Comment by Marilyn

Also I’d like to say that as a musical aren’t we allowed to give a little in our critiquing?…Hubby… I mean, Shane, are you saying that because the movie has musical numbers we should cut it more slack, that we shouldn’t be as harsh as we’re being? Just curious.

Comment by Greg

Marilyn commented when I was with the same question. Take it away Shane.

Comment by Greg

Marilyn – One thing for the people who disliked this film: Lars von Trier was booed at Cannes for Antichrist…Yeah, I mentioned that earlier (can hardly blame you for missing it, as this may be the fastest comment thread for TOERIFC yet). I also said that I still want to see it, because, well, I don’t know….I haven’t read anything that specific regarding why it was so badly received, and would maybe prefer not to until I’ve had a chance to see it myself. It could very well be awful — obviously, I’m open to the idea that Von Trier has made a terrible film — but since Antichrist is a horror film, part of me, the knee-jerk part, wonders if the Cannes group is less receptive to that genre than they are to others.

Comment by bill r.

I want to see it, too, Bill. I’m not sure I have developed a taste for Von Trier, but I’m certainly not the hater I was. I think you may be right about the horror thing. I’d like to see that genre get a little more respect. Maybe it wasn’t anti-American enough for Cannes.

Comment by Marilyn

Lots of opinions expressed here that I don’t agree with and take issue with (enjoying what Marilyn had to add though) but I’ll say this:I’ve been a fan of Bjork’s music for many years and I believe Lars Von Trier is one of the best modern directors working today. Their incredible creative collaboration on Dancer in the Dark is just stunning to behold.The musical numbers are absolutely incredible and I love the so-called “herky-jerky” editing. I wouldn’t remove even 1 of the 100 digital cameras that the director used to shoot each dance number with. These are some of the qualities that make the film more than just another crap musical churned out by a hack like Baz Luhrmann or Rob Marshall. Lars Von Trier is an artist and he isn’t afraid to use cinema as a tool, a weapon, a canvas, etc.I’m sort of baffled by the way people are confused by the film’s narrative. It seems incredibly simple and straightforward to me. Especially when compared to the countless other musicals I’ve seen. Sure there’s an elements of fantasy and dream logic at play here, but you shouldn’t dismiss that just because the story is incredibly bleak.Someone could make a case for Dancer in the Dark being the best musical made in the last 20 or 30 years. But I don’t have the energy to take on that task today. I’ll just finish by saying that Lars Von Trier + Bjork = modern movie magic.

Comment by Kimberly Lindbergs

Wow. This is quite the discussion so far. First I just want to say this is a great write-up. Anyone who can spend this much time (the fact that you watched it so many times in such a short span is amazing) with Von Trier gets a tip of the hat from me.Okay, I’m coming to this thing a tad late so I apologize if someone has already commented on these things:1. You’re so right about this being Bjork’s film. In fact, I would argue that all of Von Trier’s films succeed because his actresses are up to the task — they succeed in spite of his direction.2. Knowing that Von Trier is always commenting on America, I found much of the film, like Dogville, to be eye rolling. The court room scene in particular.3. I’m not a fan of musicals at all, so I’m not adequately educated to talk about the successes or failings of the musical scenes and what they may have alluded to. All I know is when I re-watched the film last night (it was my third time seeing it) I found myself doing laundry or correcting papers while I listened to the music. Because, again, Bjork is great in the film, and I kind of like her music, but man are those musical scenes rough to watch. You’re right about the “herky jerky” editing style not befitting to a musical.4. Back to the pivotal scene with Bill and Selma: I guess I have a question more than anything — do you all think that scene plays better being directed by someone else? Or is it the writing and performances that just feel off? I think the scene starts off well enough, but then the overacting kicks in and you can sense Von Trier wanting to go for that big moment so badly that he over plays his hand. It’s a scene that should have evolved into, like pat said, a harrowing experience, but really it evolves into parody.Despite these points I still really liked Bjork in the film, and I don’t dislike the film as much as Ed and some of the others here, but I definitely don’t sit in the camp with those who think the film is the best of 2000. I’m kind of indifferent to it. It exists in its own world, its own vacuum, and when viewed through that lens the film is a pretty good experience; but after the experience, the euphoria, has worn off, like you so eloquently stated Pat, you start to see the flaws in the film, and the cracks int he foundation only get bigger and bigger with each subsequent viewing.Von Trier has always been an intriguing director, and really he’s hard to ignore. I don’t think I’ve ever really liked his films upon repeated viewings, but I’ve always been interested in what he does. Breaking the Waves is the only other film of his I’ve been able to get through a second time — and it’s not because of the subject matter or how brutal he is to his characters, it’s mostly because I can’t stand the Dogma movement and the astetics they adhere by. The Dogma movement is more inhibiting than anything else, and when you look at Dancer in the Dark (which seems like he broke his own rules in order to make the musical) it’s easy to its power as a film in a vacuum, but when held up to other films of 2000, it fails horribly, because Von Trier’s filmmaking philosophy is so limiting. I’m sure I have a lot more to say, I haven’t read through all of the comments yet because I just wanted to throw my hat in the ring and say great, great work here Pat.

Comment by Kevin J. Olson

Maybe it wasn’t anti-American enough for Cannes…But it’s Von Trier! That hardly seems likely!Kimberly, I don’t think anyone is confused by the story. Those who don’t like it think the story is ridiculous, shrill and wrong-headed in its message (and this is from some people who agree with the message), and, frankly, pretty stupid.

Comment by bill r.

Yes, that’s what I mean. This is still a series of musical numbers held together by a plot conceived by a man who just refereed to himself a the worlds greatest director, we need to cut him some slack if not put him into one of his own hospitals, sorry I get carried away sometimes. By the way great thread if I can keep up.

Comment by Shane

Back to the pivotal scene with Bill and Selma: I guess I have a question more than anything — do you all think that scene plays better being directed by someone else? Or is it the writing and performances that just feel off?…I assume you’re talking about the killing, Kevin? If so, I think another, better filmmaker could have made it work. The Coens spring to mind. I don’t know for sure that they could have, but it’s possible. I don’t even know that I think the performances in the scene are that bad. I think the writing lets down the actors more than the actors let down Von Trier (so maybe the Coens wouldn’t have improved anything, if they were working from the same script). The scene simply doesn’t work at its core, at its inception.

Comment by bill r.

Those who don’t like it think the story is ridiculous, shrill and wrong-headed in its message (and this is from some people who agree with the message), and, frankly, pretty stupid.Frankly I feel somewhat similarly in regards to this comment thread so I sympathize.

Comment by Kimberly Lindbergs

Going out for lunch. Be back in a few. Shane, hold the fort for Team Skokie!

Comment by Marilyn

Frankly I feel somewhat similarly in regards to this comment thread so I sympathize…Well, at least you chose to be civil about it.

Comment by bill r.

I’m sort of baffled by the way people are confused by the film’s narrative….Kimberly, I don’t see anyone here confused by the narrative. I think it’s been expressed that the narrative is contrived to the point of being meaningless as a narrative. In other words, there are many ways to get from the beginning of that film to the end logically but, to quote Bill’s earlier run-on sentence, von Triers instead gets there by having … “this immigrant woman who is going blind and has to save money for her son who will definitely go blind, too, but he can have an operation when he gets to a certain age, although she can’t tell him that because then he’ll get stressed, which will make him go blinder, but she’s saving money for this operation, and it’s a secret, for some reason, although she confides to one person who is unfortunately really broke, too, and his brokeness makes him no longer a nice person, and she has to murder him for some reason, but won’t speak a word in her own defense because of her son and the money even though it would probably all work out as well as it could if she would just tell the truth about what happened and why, and when she hangs it’s because she’s foreign, really, not because she won’t be honest about the situation, and isn’t America just awful how America treats it’s blind immigrants who instantly clam up when their life is on the line?”

Comment by Greg

If you want LVT with a hold together plot and still have some fun I can only say watch The Kingdom, the Danish one, You can see why I don’t fault this in any way. It’s just like Hairspray(both) Rocky Horror or any other campy musical with a “message” enjoy and sing along!!

Comment by Shane

Shane – First off, welcome! Second…a plot conceived by a man who just refereed to himself a the worlds greatest director…Depending on how seriously you want to take Von Trier’s statement (for myself, I think he was making a little joke…maybe), I think this would mean we should cut him even LESS slack.

Comment by bill r.

Shane – Welcome! Kimberly – Welcome you,too and glad to have your thoughts,no matter whether you agree with what’s already been said or not. However, I take issue with the tone of your second comment. I’m sorry you find so many of us stupid, and I’m personally insulted by that comment. Surely you can find a way to respectfully discuss and debate with insulting people here.

Comment by Pat

Frankly I feel somewhat similarly in regards to this comment thread so I sympathize…Yikes! Kimberly, I think this comment thread has been an intelligent and honest conversation amongst cinephiles about this film. I wouldn’t classify it as stupid as everyone has striven to back up their opinions with well-reasoned arguments.

Comment by Greg

Bill & Kevin-On the death scene…I agree with all that it is technically poorly executed, but I think it works in that it made me sick to my stomach. I didn't find it so over-the-top silly (as Pat said in her review) that it took me out of the slow unraveling brutality that is going on. I mean, when Selma picks up the metal box to bash Bill's head in, I said, "Oh no… oh don't… oh Von Trier you sick bastard!!!".So, in that sense, I think the scene works, because I think that’s what Von Trier is going for: punishment of the audience.

Comment by Fox

One thing all this talk of Von Trier as a sloppy filmmaker has made me want to do is go back and revisit Dogville. Because I was frankly blown away by that film, my first exposure to Von Trier. It was a harrowing, powerful experience, and I felt it acheived what the murder scene in DITD was so desperately trying for. Maybe it’s because its artificiality and allegory are more coherent, whereas DITD seems so confused as to whether it’s trying for metaphor, realism or fantasy. I wonder though if I’d feel any differently about Dogville revisiting it now.Also this post on Antichrist has strangely made me *really* want to see it, even more than before. Am I just perverse?

Comment by Ed Howard

Well I want the lyric sheet and the soundtrack myself… thanks for the welcom. Y’all seem to be a nice bunch of folks, so far.

Comment by Shane

Shane, welcome. Good to “see” you. Marilyn talks about you all the time.You’re saying lighten up, right? Couldn’t agree more. But we have a way of getting way serious around here …

Comment by Rick Olson

Ed, I’m dying to see it too. I’ll join you in self doubt.

Comment by Shane

Greg: How come Ryan never calls me “dear?”…Because you never take me out anymore! Also, you don’t visit me as much as you used to. I see how it is!PIPER: Yeah is there something between Pat and Ryan?…Yes, Pat and I have been madly in love for many years now.

Comment by Ryan Kelly

Thanks Rick. Though truth be told I enjoy all this banter. It’s like watching things with my Sweetie.

Comment by Shane

If you want LVT with a hold together plot and still have some fun I can only say watch The Kingdom, the Danish one, You can see why I don’t fault this in any way. It’s just like Hairspray(both) Rocky Horror or any other campy musical with a “message” enjoy and sing along!!…Did you think it was campy? I suppose that’s one way to deal with the plot. And I can’t sing along to Bjork. More power to you, honestly, but I can’t swing it.I saw The Kingdom, or part of it, ages ago, and I really need to go back to it.

Comment by bill r.

Kevin – Welcome and thanks for your comments.I think that whole murder scene should have been rethought and maybe rewritten. It just needs an urgency from both Bill and Selma that it just doesn’t have. Dancerdoesn’t ahdere to the Dogme rules as some of his earlier films do, though it retains some the same look with the hand-held camerawork and fragmentary editing.

Comment by Pat

Shane-Nice to “meet” you. P.S. Keep an eye on Rick and Bill, they kind of fancy your Sweetie. :)(that’s my second smiley face today… ew!)OK… back to the movie…

Comment by Fox

“And building on something Pat mentioned near the end of her review: Selma makes grand martyrdom choices for her son’s eyesight although we are never given any depth with their relationship so we don’t care. von Triers makes the central relationship between Selma and Kathy. I can see Selma or Kathy making a great sacrifice for the other but as to her son the movie hasn’t gotten me emotionally involved in what should be the important relationship. Except for a couple of early scenes, we don’t even see them together.”(Sorry, I don’t know how to use the HTML tags…I’m not computer savvy.)That quote is from comment Greg made about the lack of relationship that is established between Selma and her son Gene. One of the major problems I had when watched this again last night was that I never felt bad for Selma because I thought she was insane. She’s a horrible a mother in the sense that she doesn’t need to be a martyr. She’s abandoning her son in the worst way, and I was pulling my hair out that nobody thought about committing her to an asylum. She’s very childish when faced with big, harsh, and very real problems. Perhaps I’m missing Von Trier’s commentary here on whimsy or escapism — but I felt like the choices Selma makes, especially in the courtroom scene — show how little she cares about her son. Greg you also make a great comparison with The Contender — a film I actually quite like, but yes, there is the giant glaring problem of how the film would be over in 5 minutes if she just showed them the evidence she had. The same thing goes for Dancer…are we supposed to think Selma is this all-loving mother who would do anything, even sacrifice her life, just so her son can see? I seem to recall a line of dialogue where Selma says that she had Gene because “she wanted to hold a baby.” Well, that’s certainly responsible.

Comment by Kevin J. Olson

Fox – I think when Selma picks up the metal box to bludgeon, the scene does start to get back on track and become truly horrible. But it’s kind of painful trip to get there. And, of course,even more painful to watch – but for different reasons – when she actually finishes him off.

Comment by Pat

Ed- Just the still on that Antichrist post has me intrigued.

Comment by Pat

I wondered how she could see the box to know what it was and then to figure on using it as a bludgeon rather than beating him with the gun already handy and identifiable.

Comment by Shane

But it’s kind of painful trip to get there. And, of course,even more painful to watch – but for different reasons – when she actually finishes him off….Pat-And I did welcome the “Smith and Wesson” song afterwards b/c it quickly took some of the sting out of that scene. The murder just lasts so painfully LONG!!! Why doesn’t he just take the gun from her and finish himself!?!?! ARGH!!But as I said earlier… I think Von Trier gets off on getting that kind of reaction from us, as when he sends Bess to the boat in Breaking the Waves. ARGHH!!!

Comment by Fox

Shane – I would like to get the soundtrack myself,the songs are still haunting me. The lyrics are avaialable on line, I googled them yesterday.Ryan – Glad you’re back, darling.

Comment by Pat

I wondered how she could see the box to know what it was and then to figure on using it as a bludgeon rather than beating him with the gun already handy and identifiable…I suppose just feeling it would tell her it was up to the task but why keep going? She’s done enough to kill him already. The only reason to keep going is so the jury can have 34 wounds to mull over and make the case against her more convincing for them.

Comment by Greg

I wondered how she could see the box to know what it was and then to figure on using it as a bludgeon rather than beating him with the gun already handy and identifiable….Shane-I thought the same thing, but what made it even more brutal was when Von Trier shows Selma sobbingly feeling around for Bill’s head… TO BASH IN! ARGH!!

Comment by Fox

See now you got me doing it. I just don’t think it’s worth more then a scant look as far as the plot goes. The actors were we picked and played with what they had, even better in some cases, but the truth of the matter is it’s a musical and that’s all. Any closer examination will, as we used to tell our daughter at ballets, prove it shabby.

Comment by Shane

ARGH!Sorry, Fox made me do it.

Comment by PIPER

Kevin – I think Selma is indeed simple-minded and so doesn’t see that she is being an irresponsible mother. If I took anything from the courtroom scene along the lines of anti-death penalty activism it would be that no one with the D.A. seemed to notice that she was simpleminded, preferring to treat her as malevolent instead.

Comment by Greg

Pat & Shane-You can just buy Bjork's Selmasongs for the music of DITD. I don’t think there is a separate soundtrack, but maybe there is.Anyways, I like it as a stand-alone album as well. Weaker in the context of her other albums, but good nonetheless.

Comment by Fox

Kevin -She’s very childish when faced with big, harsh, and very real problems.AMEN!!! The biggest problem I have with Selma is that she is so childish/childlike and so stubbornly committed to her ill-advised agenda. I don’t see how anyone can blame her death on the American judicial system – she has a hand in her own demise through her poor choices and failure to defend herself.

Comment by Pat

Sorry that should read ” well picked..” I’m not use to this bouncing back and forth yet. I’ll get the hang of it yet. Thanks Pat I felt like singing along last night on my first watching.

Comment by Shane

By the way, this comment thread is already at over 170 comments, which is a number the rest of didn’t get to until the second day. Good Gracious! Congratualtions Pat on picking a movie that got everyone involved and interested.

Comment by Greg

but the truth of the matter is it’s a musical and that’s all….Oh, I disagree, Shane. I think it’s a musical secondarily. I mean, time wise, the dance numbers take up a very small portion of the film. Most musicals are at least 60% song and dance, and DITD wasn’t that way at all.

Comment by Fox

Shane -I wondered how she could see the box to know what it was and then to figure on using it as a bludgeon rather than beating him with the gun already handy and identifiable.Hey,that’s a good point.I also wondered about the trial scene – the prosecurtor accuses her of pretending to be blind, and I thought “Was she able to get to the witness stand without assistance? Cause if she needed help to get there,wouldn’t that indicate that she really was blind?”

Comment by Pat

Pat:It’s almost as if I was siding with the “evil DA” in the courtroom scene, even though he is obviously being portrayed as someone who is out to get Selma — a simple minded, whimsical person. Are we supposed to boo him? Because I found myself nodding agreement with his entire argument. Perhaps that’s what Von Trier wanted to do: take an American cinema archetype, the “evil” lawyer out to get the worst sentence possible, and get American audiences to agree with it…I don’t know, but I found myself relieved that at least somebody was speaking some sort of sense.

Comment by Kevin J. Olson

To Fox’s point,What constitutes a musical? Are there rules? I had wondered if this would indeed be called a musical.

Comment by PIPER

By the way, this comment thread is already at over 170 comments, which is a number the rest of didn’t get to until the second day. Good Gracious!Yeah,we’re already about 145 comments over my all-time record at this blog,so thanks everyone!(And, of course,I just upped the number by adding this comment,heh, heh!)

Comment by Pat

Congratualtions Pat on picking a movie that got everyone involved and interested….I second that, and am also encouraged to see so many new faces pop in today!

Comment by Fox

Since I’ve been so negative so far, I’m going to change direction a bit and talk about another thing I really liked in this film besides Bjork. I loved the scenes in which Selma hears music in the little rhythms and noises of everyday life: the mechanical rhythms of the factory, the chugging sound of the train and its squeaking wheels, etc. This is great stuff, and really resonates for me with the kinds of experimental music that deal in “found sounds” and natural noises. It reminds me of someone like Jeph Jerman, who uses natural objects — rocks, sticks, leaves, peapods, etc. — to create dense rhythmic arrangements of tiny incidental noises. I don’t know if Von Trier is aware of this kind of stuff at all (probably not; few are) but there’s a whole strain of modern music that looks for these kinds of musical elements within prosaic sounds. Seeing someone like Jerman perform (or Sean Meehan, or Greg Davis, or Radu Malfatti, or any of the many other musicians for whom natural sounds play a role in their work) opens one up to the richness of the sound environments around us every day. Just walking down the street is a powerful sonic experience if you open yourself up to it. Selma’s enjoyment of the rhythms and noises in her daily life is something that I really related to.

Comment by Ed Howard

Fox, thanks for the title I’m on the track of it as we “speak” as to wheather the amount of time directly used in the numbers make it a musical or if as I believe DITD shows scenes are only made in ways leading up to a number therefore making it a plot around a score. I guess it’s a matter for discussion.

Comment by Shane

Ed,I agree. This film has its downsides, but I did find wonderful parts in it. And that was one of them. And I could definitely relate to it.When I was a kid, I used to be terrified of the dark (probably why I like horror movies so much today) but I used to use the random creaks and thunks in the night to make music in my head to help me fall to sleep.

Comment by PIPER

Just walking down the street is a powerful sonic experience if you open yourself up to it. Selma’s enjoyment of the rhythms and noises in her daily life is something that I really related to…I agree. Much of the music I do is based on found sounds, including a piece I did for an October Teaser Trailer I just finished for Cinema Styles.

Comment by Greg

Harry Partch, Terry Reily, Alloy Orchestra have given so much to the idea that the world is waiting to be played. Good point. It’s so easy to hear the music around you. Gershwin took traffic to a new appreciation in Rhapsody in Blue.

Comment by Shane

Forgive my absence from the discussion. I really shouldn’t add my two sense here, as I’m intellectually stunted to fathom or appreciate Lars or Bjork.

Comment by Flickhead

There are lots of different definitions of musicals, which I’m not sure we need to get into here, but I certainly don’t think there are any hard rules about what percentage of screentime needs to be singing in order to make a film a musical. DITD features obvious musical numbers in which the characters break from the reality of the film to sing and dance instead. That to me makes it a musical.

Comment by Ed Howard

Pat, everyone:This has been a great discussion so far, I’m glad I could be a part of it. Work calls, though, and I won’t be able to check the thread for another three or four hours. I look forward to reading more comments then. Pat, great choice for a film, and again kudos to you for sticking it out so many times with Dancer in the Dark. I’ll be back later to check things out.

Comment by Kevin J. Olson

I have to admit by your determination that would make The Ruling Class a musical.

Comment by Shane

That las comment was in response to Ed. Like I said I’ll catch on.

Comment by Shane

The Ruling Class is a musical. It’s a comedy musical using standards done in an amateurish manner. I think with both DITD and The Ruling Class it skews some definitions of a musical because it’s not wall to wall music, but a few select songs placed throughout.

Comment by Greg

I haven’t seen The Ruling Class, but I tend to have a more permissive definition of musicals than most. I’ve always thought it would be fun to argue for some of David Lynch’s films (especially Mulholland Dr. and Eraserhead) as perverse musicals.

Comment by Ed Howard

Not Blue Velvet?!?

Comment by Shane

So, I guess Flickhead didn’t like it. Well, Ray you’re next up and the pressure’s on. This post may well exceed 300 comments before it’s over and I think that can be attributed to more folks outside of the TOERIFC TEN getting involved, which I guess means the word is spreading (I hope). I’ll make sidebar banners soon, which of course you won’t use as you’ve never used ones I’ve made yet (shakes fist and yells “FLICKHEEEEEEEAD!”)Seriously though, the comment thread here is through the roof! It’s amazing.And let me add to the chorus to say that I also found much to like in this. Like I said in the very first comment of this thread, the movie really had me up until the murder so maybe Marilyn is right and something happened in the editing process after that.

Comment by Greg

I’m back! Had a lot of catching up to do.I do think DITD is a musical, but then I’ve been taken to task for accepting anything but the conventional Singin’ in the Rain kind of film as a musical. (I moderated a discussion Movie Musicals that went on for several months.)Shane – I don’t think a shoddy film can be excused for its lapses because it is a musical. The craftsmanship is important in all kinds of films, and this one has its fantasy/reality sides in spades.As for the disappearance of Gene, if you watch soap operas, you’ll see that people constantly fight over children, but in the end, children are usually relegated to the wings. Women, the preponderance of the audience for this type of program or film, really would like to be rid of the child care for a while and lose themselves in a romantic fantasy – all the while affirming their mother love through some sacrifice the heroine makes. It’s pretty stand-issue stuff.

Comment by Marilyn

I want to thank you all again for being such a personable group to discuss and parley with. Hope to join in again, thanks again, Shane

Comment by Shane

See ya later, honey.

Comment by Marilyn

Good timing Sweetheart! I’ve got a birthday to think about, later, Shane

Comment by Shane

Greg -Despite my state misgivings,I found more to admire than to hate in “Dancer in the Dark.” If I didn’t,I would never have been able to make it through three viewings in the last two weeks!Marilyn -I like the point you make about kids being largely absent in soap operas. Would you say that was true of women’s “Weepie” films as well? I remember noticing in “Far From Heaven” that Julianne Moore was constantly dismissing her kids to go do their homework or clean their rooms. I thought it was odd at the time,but perhaps that is a convention of the genre that I just haven’t picked up on.

Comment by Pat

A fair amount of this reminded me of I Want to Live! and Madame X. Keeping secrets is part of the genre as well.

Comment by Marilyn

The comments have been flipped. Okay, everybody, time to reverse your opinions and start talking like Bizarro.

Comment by bill r.

Ha ha. I think I already have a reverse opinion, Bill!

Comment by Marilyn

I wonder what the Bizarro of Dancer in the Dark would be. Ray?WORD VER.: “foodger”

Comment by Fox

The vanishing kids thing is definitely a convention of melodramas and women’s pictures and soap operas. The kids are often talked about far more than they’re seen: they make good plot devices and motivations but otherwise are secondary to the sexual dynamics that often occupy the forefront of these kinds of movies. But did anyone really think that’s what Von Trier was going for here? In something like Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes is obviously engaging with and parodying these genre cliches. I didn’t get the same sense from Gene’s disappearance from the plot here, which just seemed like one more example of Von Trier’s sloppy storytelling, one more of the many threads unceremoniously dropped as the movie goes on.

Comment by Ed Howard

However, I take issue with the tone of your second comment. I’m sorry you find so many of us stupid, and I’m personally insulted by that comment. Surely you can find a way to respectfully discuss and debate with insulting people here.I never called anyone stupid. My unfortunate knee jerk response to Bill was about the comments – not the people so said them. I find it strange that you take issue with my comment when you must of thought the one Bill directed at me was just fine? How do you expect people who really like Dancer in the Dark and the director’s work in general to intelligently respond to a lot of these negative comments about the film? Bill’s response to my comment doesn’t leave a hell of a lot of room open for so-called “conversation.” In fact it shuts it down and cuts it off.If it makes you all feel any better, color me too smart for not understanding the negative responses to this film.

Comment by Kimberly Lindbergs

Ed – I don’t pretend to have a definitive answer. I’d really like to interview this guy. Maybe I can set something up. If I can, will you all promise to send me questions you have?

Comment by Marilyn

Something I just thought of: pretty much every piece of ridiculous plotting exists so that Von Trier doesn’t have to deal with something that would take him off-track. So, Selma never tells Gene about his eye condition, and Gene is barely in the film, so that he wouldn’t have to deal with Gene’s reaction to his own life and his own mother’s decision to sacrifice her life. If he dealt with that, he would either have to let Gene condone her decision to die, or he would have to have him try and talk her out of it, which would have resulted in either her survival (can’t have that) or her rejection of her son’s wishes. And we can’t have that either.

Comment by bill r.

Kimberly, all I said to you was that A) no one was confused by the plot, as you asserted, and B) I told you what those who didn’t like the story actually thought of it. Tell me what was insulting about that, or how it cuts off conversation?

Comment by bill r.

Ed-I’m not convinced his storytelling is bad, per se, but rather the details within it. Maybe that’s splitting hairs, but I feel that there is a plot that gets pushed along rather well, it’s just the plot is rather full of holes and hiccups.I think DITD moves along rather briskly, and despite my negative reaction to it, it’s engaging to watch. I never got bored, just annoyed.

Comment by Fox

Kimberly -I’m not sure which to which comment of Bill’s you are referring. Forgive me,but this has been a busy, fast-moving thread,so if I’ve missed a slight that was directed at you, then please understand, it was not intentional.I can understand that you feel passionate about a film you love, and that encountering so much negative opinion directed towards can be frustrating. I’d love to hear more about what you love in Von Trier and this film. I just don’t much appreciate being labeled as “stupid” if I disagree with you.

Comment by Pat

I agree with Pat. I really wish a passionate defender of this film would jump in at this point — there have been some positive comments along the way but I’d love to see a more sustained defense of the film. That’s what this club is all about; we should be able to disagree about a film without getting annoyed with those who have different opinions.

Comment by Ed Howard

Pat, here’s my comment that apparently led to this:Kimberly, I don’t think anyone is confused by the story. Those who don’t like it think the story is ridiculous, shrill and wrong-headed in its message (and this is from some people who agree with the message), and, frankly, pretty stupid…I called the story stupid, which I feel it is. I never claimed anyone who disagreed with me was stupid, and that comment was probably about 150 deep into this thread.Kimberly, if you want to engage in and disagree with points I’ve made, please do. But shutting down and hurling personal insults seems a pretty weak way of going about it.And pardon me if I’m not pacified by your “you’re not stupid, just your opinions” qualification.

Comment by bill r.

I think I’ve put together some “defense” of the film, or maybe I think the offense is a little misplaced. I wish we had a real production history, like Joe Valdez does, to understand how this film might have been born. Pat, did you find any other links that might be useful?

Comment by Marilyn

Marilyn – My previous post has some links. The most valable one is to an interview with Von Trier at the time he was starting to film Dancer in the Dark . It is definitely worth checking out.I’ll try to look around for some more as time permits.(I’m glad I took the day off work-I would never be able to keep up with this thread if I hadn’t!)

Comment by Pat

Marilyn, you’ve definitely done a good job arguing for the film. But I’d also like to hear more from someone like Kimberly, who apparently feels it’s an outright masterpiece.And I agree that a production history (or an interview with Von Trier!) would be fascinating. If the film was compromised by studio interference, that definitely explains some of its problems with editing and pacing.

Comment by Ed Howard

Did anyone listen to the commentary? Maybe that has some insight.I feel pretty confident that everything in DITD that we question or have problems with is a result of Von Trier. I’m no expert on him, but I’ve had similar issues with DITD that I had with Breaking…, and The Idiots.Element of Crime, on the other hand, feels like a film from another director. If I remember correctly, it’s pretty slowly paced (almost ploddingly so) and shot rather eloquently. And, in defence of Bill, I took his “stupid” comment to be about the story – as he’s already addressed – and not directed at people who like the movie.

Comment by Fox

I read those links, Pat. Maybe I’ll ask Joe if he might be willing to tackle this one. He does such a good job.BTW, I found the following comments on a thread about Antichrist. I think they’re pertinent here:Lars von Trier’s work is most definitely art because it tests the limits of human experience on several levels. I haven’t seen Antichrist yet but I know from several other films at which the same tut-tutting of the moral majority was levelled that he has an arsenal which bulges with tools of provocation far beyond the ‘controversial images’ everyone focuses on. For example, The Idiots employs editing techniques designed to disorientate by cutting the opposite way to the standard Hollywood style (e.g. character looks off to left, cut to wide shot, we’re on the opposite side and they’re looking right etc) and his Dogme aesthetics brought a whole new layer of grit to cinema. Dogville challenged how we view the setting of a film and the importance of character, and Breaking the Waves defied standard character arcs.I fully expect that Antichrist offers far more than just defiled religious iconography and Freudian references in its artistic pursuits.May 18, 2009 at 6:45 pm Ray @ Michael Edwards – Some of those examples you mention there are examples of techniques used simply because he can. Like the disorienting editing – is it there just to fuck with people, or is it employed for the sake of furthering a story or its subject matter??I love films that take chances and risk being different. But doing those things just because they can be done doesn’t do anything other than piss people off. And what’s the point of that?May 18, 2009 at 7:29 pm Michael Edwards It’s to further the subject matter! It only pisses people off because they feel repulsed, disorientated or disconcerted and don’t understand why so they grasp for any old explanation, when the real reason is that he deals with subject matter that SHOULD make you feel like that. Too many films gloss over violence and hurt, or stylise it in a way that allows viewers to detach. This is what LvT fights against. He revels in defying convention and audience expectations in a way that Godard did (to a similar mixture of praise and disdain from critics) with political subjects in his later works. Just because both figures revel in their controversial status, or because their offends or confuses some people, doesn’t mean that what they do is not art.

Comment by Marilyn

I’m very late to the party, sorry. I tried to read through all of the comments, but wow! So many of them and so quickly, Greg will have to tell us if this is a new record.On to the film and don’t smack me please; I liked it. I thought the slow pacing of the first half was a nice contrast to the second half. I thought the musical numbers were great, especially the first one in the factory and “I’ve Seen It All”. All the actors did well, especially Peter Stormare and Catherine Denueve, but Bjork was for me the absolute highlight. The expressions on her face were breathtaking, at times it was as if she was lit from within. I thought she was absolutely amazing.About Von Trier, this was my first and I must admit I didn’t have a problem with the editing or any part of how the movie was shot. For me it was refreshing to see a film done differently. I will say however, that Von Trier has the subtlety of a sledgehammer. He should also work on his writing skills, the plot was overly melodramatic and manipulative. I read online somewhere that this plot would have been right at home as a silent film starring Lillian Gish and its true. And I didn’t get the female guard at the end, exactly why did she like Selma so much? In fact, the more I think about this the more I agree with everyone who has already commented on the deck-stacking and the lack of reasons to care about the characters. If Von Trier isn’t going to take the time to write a script that has actual characters instead of human plot devices, exactly why is he making films? But then again, I liked where he was going with the 100 cameras and the interesting way he shot the film.I guess for me this was an imperfect film that I found enjoyable in spite of its problems.

Comment by kassy

Back for a little bit:Kassy, I agree with you that when one starts thinking about the film after the fact, then it becomes a film with huge problems; but like I said earlier, Dancer in the Dark, when viewed in a vacuum, isn’t a wholly dreadful experience. I don’t mind melodrama at all, but I do have problems with Von Trier’s aesthetics as they take me out of his films, rather then having me feel the moment he wants me to feel.I think Von Trier is only as good as his actors, and with Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves the actors, the lead actresses especially, were more than up to the task; the actors do all the heavy lifting in a Von Trier film.I’ve been enjoying sneaking away from work duties to check out the conversation. I better get back, though.

Comment by Kevin J. Olson

“human plot devices”.Kassy-I think that’s a perfect description of Von Trier’s characters.

Comment by Fox

Fox -I gave up on listening to the commentary about three scenes in becasuse,to be honest,I was having great difficulty understanding Von Trier’s accent. Marilyn -Thanks for sharing that commentary. For the record, I do belive that Von Trier’s films are art, and I have no problem whatsoever with his “odd” framing and editing style. If anything, it just makes me look at scenes in a different way. I don’t even care if he’s just “fucking with us.” It’s fine with me.I will, however, admit to being much more conventional in my expectations of musical numbers, and I’m very weary of frenetic, ADD-style cutting in dance scenes- not just in Dancer in the Dark , but in many other musicals as well. (e.g. Moulin Rouge , even Chicago, although it didn’t bother me quite as much there.) Selma is from the era where she would have grown up with old-fashioned musical numbers, and I would like to have seen hers staged and edited accordingly. Just a personal preference; as Rick would say, “Your mileage may vary.”

Comment by Pat

Kassy -Hello and welcome. No one is going to “Smack” you for your comments (please!) – in fact, I think I agree with most everything you said. See my previous comment – the editing didn’t bother me either,except in some of the musical numbers.I like that you mentioned the guard. I thought it was notable that she was the only American sympathetic to Selma’s plight in the end.

Comment by Pat

If Von Trier isn’t going to take the time to write a script that has actual characters instead of human plot devices, exactly why is he making films? I think this comment could be levelled at a lot of filmmakers. But let’s take the obvious example of experimental filmmakers working in archetypes. Or Godard. This isn’t an argument against human plot devices, only against how they worked in this film. And I would argue that these were fleshed characters. Why else did Shane and I cry when she was walking the last mile? I don’t think I would have done that for a plot device, particularly not in this film, which didn’t really push buttons (unlike the manipulations of Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg, for example).

Comment by Marilyn

I don’t think I would have done that for a plot device, particularly not in this film, which didn’t really push buttons…Oh, I thought this was ALL about pushing buttons. If Kathy rushing up, unhindered, to hand Selma her son’s glasses isn’t button pushing, then I don’t know what is. If that same scene were found in a Ron Howard film, he’d be crucified, and rightly so.

Comment by bill r.

Marilyn:I think one of the problems I had with the character of Selma was that her reasoning was never fleshed out. I don’t mind my emotions being manipulated, when it’s done well. I just think that Selma is going to her death, when really she could easily avoid the death, and that to me isn’t sad, it’s maddening. I got a little teary, too, when I re-watched this last night, but I think it was more because of Bjork’s haunting voice and the way she sings that last song. It’s sad because she doesn’t have to do it.Pat broached the subject in her essay, and I would be interested in what others have to say in regards to Von Trier as a misogynist. It seems like the clunky plot and Von Trier are leading Selma to the gallows, not Selma’s convictions; because we are never privy to what those convictions may be.

Comment by Kevin J. Olson

Also, I forgot to add that someone before (maybe it was Bill or Ed, I can’t remember) was asking for someone to defend the film and give their reasoning why…I saw that Sam Juliano commented here earlier, and I’d like to second the fact that his review is a worthwhile read and a great defense of the film. I don’t know where Sam went off to, but I hope he comes back to this discussion and adds his two cents, because he gives a good defense of the film.

Comment by Kevin J. Olson

And I would argue that these were fleshed characters. Why else did Shane and I cry when she was walking the last mile? I don’t think I would have done that for a plot device, particularly not in this film, which didn’t really push buttons (unlike the manipulations of Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg, for example)….That’s a good point, Marilyn, but I would argue that you can still be affected emotionally by devices. Meaning (and I agree that human plot devices aren’t necessarily bad things) I think Selma is a device to manipulate us into accepting some of von Trier’s political and emotional points. I don’t think von Trier cares about Selma so much, I think he wants to use her to make us cry, and so he paints her as this little pixie angel. Check how he uses a close-up on Bjork’s innocent elvish face right before he snaps her neck. It’s like having a cute puppy in your arms only to have some punk come by and choke it away. It’s like a taunt.

Comment by Fox

I didn’t cry at the end, I think that I was pretty much resigned to Selma’s fate by then. But I did cry when Jeff was visiting her in the jail and told her he loved her and during the scene at the movie where Kathy acted out the dancing on Selma’s hand. I have been thinking about the murder scene in between loads of laundry and it was pretty bad. Did Bill want her to kill him because he wanted to die or did he hope that by killing him and going to jail that his wife would get to keep the money and no one would know that he was broke? I know there was a discussion earlier about whether or not Selma had been framed and I think Bill may have been trying to frame her in order to cover up his deeds and protect his reputation.

Comment by kassy

I don’t have any problem with directors who deal in archetypes rather than developed characters. It didn’t even bother me in Dogville. But in this film the manipulation was just so blatant and so clumsily handled, in my opinion. I agree with Bill: Von Trier isn’t just pushing buttons, he’s pounding on them with both fists. There are scenes here that make Ron Howard look like Ozu in terms of subtlety and restraint.Kevin, despite my obvious negative feelings about this film, I’m still not really comfortable calling Von Trier a misogynist, or this a misogynist film. Is a film misogynist just because its female protagonist suffers? I don’t think so. I think Von Trier is more of a misanthrope, and has a very ugly view of life and people, but he shows much more contempt for other characters in the film (the DA, the anti-Commie co-worker, Bill) than he does for poor, naive Selma.

Comment by Ed Howard

Bill – To be honest, that moment had no effect on me. I was wondering “who let her up?” I don’t think von Trier is a very good button pusher. He doesn’t choreograph his scenes or score them to create those Pavlovian responses that Spielberg seems to have patented. The emotions I felt were earned honestly, pushing up from Bjork’s performance and the intimacy von Trier captured in many scenes. He’s really great with duet scenes in this movie.I don’t know what I think about von Trier and misogyny. Personally, I see him working in the same territory as Terence Davies, Todd Haynes, and Mitchell Leisen with this film cycle. He has some understanding of the women’s film genre, and I think he respects it. He’s trying to put a modern twist on it, I think, a post-Hollywood, post-American-Empire critique and that may account for a bit of his clumsiness. But I don’t think the savagery his inflicts on women comes out of a genuine misogyny, though Bjork may disagree. He seems to care about his afflicted women. Billy Wilder is the example I’d give of a real misogynist filmmaker.

Comment by Marilyn

Ed, I would agree with you about Von Trier as more of a misanthrope. The way he treats his female leads is something that definitely should be looked at, but I agree, Von Trier just has an ugly take on life in general.

Comment by Kevin J. Olson

I also don’t think he’s a misanthrope. I think he wants us to look at the evil around us and react. Meida has become so all pervasive and all mind-numbing. He’s screaming at us to stop being lotus eaters.

Comment by Marilyn

Marilyn – Where does the media even enter into Dancer in the Dark? Or Dogville, for that matter?

Comment by bill r.

I’m uncomfortable calling Von Trier a misogynist as well, not knowing the man, but he does have a thing for beating down his female protagonists both psychological and physically. Is’nt that what the ‘golden hearts’ trilogy was about in the first place? Whether he thinks that this pain brings some kind of notion of the sublime, conveys the misery of the world, or just results from him liking seeing women beaten up, it’s a major theme. I’ve heard a lot of cries of ‘misogyny’ come from his latest, because it seems to revel in the same kind of thing.Oh, and hi guys.

Comment by Krauthammer

Bill – What do you mean? Isn’t a filmmaker allowed to scream into a media-saturated populace about issues they’ve long gotten apathetic about? ARe we to judge this film in complete isolation from the audiences who watch it?

Comment by Marilyn

This just popped into my head. Is part of the problem with the writing the fact that Von Trier obviously worked hard on the experimental aspects of making the film so that the writing almost feels like an afterthought? Because the plot problems are bugging me and I’m not usually one for being bothered by script.

Comment by kassy

Marilyn – That’s not what I’m saying. You’re earlier comment –Media has become so all pervasive and all mind-numbing. He’s screaming at us to stop being lotus eaters…– seemed to imply that you think Von Trier is in some way commenting on media saturation. I’m asking, what evidence is there of that?

Comment by bill r.

Kauthammer – Think about “golden hearts.” The term is most often used in the phrase “hooker with a heart of gold.” These women are always sympathetic in films, but they usually don’t end up well, being that they’re not virginal and all that. This is another Hollywood convention that I think von Trier is taking on. They don’t get the guy? Hell, they get cut up by a john; they get betrayed by a cowardly friend and end up at the end of a rope. This is more like the real ending for those hookers, not Duke Ellington’s wistful, but slow fade in “Lush Life”.

Comment by Marilyn

Medea or media????

Comment by shane

I did not say that, Bill. I’m saying that his audiences are numb, and he feels strongly about the issues he approaches in his films. If you were numb to the capital punishment issue before the film, you certainly wouldn’t be afterwards. Lots of filmmakers take on social issues. Why is it that von Trier has to have an explicit media critique in his films for me to be able to comment that his films are like wake-up calls?

Comment by Marilyn

I’m not aware that “Lush Life” is a about a hooker. It was written by gay man, Billy Strayhorn,and I think could apply to anyone in unrequited love.I’ve sung that song many times in variety shows, open mic nights etc., so I have so I have strong feelings about it.

Comment by Pat

Marilyn, again, that’s not what I said. I apparently misunderstood your point about the media, but I never said that Von Trier needed to make an explicit critique of the media, or that you couldn’t comment on his films if he didn’t have one. I don’t know where you got that idea.

Comment by bill r.

Bill – It’s hard to “engage” someone who insists on using words like “ridiculous, shrill and wrong-headed and stupid” to describe a film you like – a lot. I find that kind of inflammatory language an extremely weak way of attempting to “engage” me about the film. It only insults and shuts down communication so you got a childish knee jerk response out of me. Are you really surprised by that, Bill? I should have aimed it at you directly since it was in response to your comment to me, but que sera, sera. Carry on the conversation without me.

Comment by Kimberly Lindbergs

“Lush Life” was just an example of a story that tells what happens to those sad women. And I’ve only heard women sing it, so that’s how I identify it. Geeze, why is everyone getting so literal all of a sudden?

Comment by Marilyn

Sorry,Marilyn – I just was surprised to see “Lush Life” come in up in a discussion about ‘heart of gold’ hookers,so perhaps I jumped the gun a bit. I understand your point. As I mentioned,the song is near and dearto me, being the one that I frequently perform when asked to sing at various fundraisers,etc., so I just overreacted a bit. Taking a deep calming breath. Carry on.

Comment by Pat

It’s hard to “engage” someone who insists on using words like “ridiculous, shrill and wrong-headed and stupid” to describe a film you like – a lot. I find that kind of inflammatory language an extremely weak way of attempting to “engage” me about the film. It only insults and shuts down communication so you got a childish knee jerk response out of me…Others called the film “annoying” and the director “not very bright”. Where’s the childish knee-jerk reaction (we agreed on something!) to them? What is it about me, I wonder?And I didn’t realize that a film club wherein we discuss our opinions of a given film was supposed to avoid language that insulted the poor movie. You misunderstood my problems with the film, so I corrected you. That’s inflammatory now? Land sakes!Pretty much everybody here has referred to movies I love as “stupid” and worse. I got over it pretty quick. Carry on the conversation without me…Will do!

Comment by bill r.

I’m back but have to leave again. Just a couple of very quick comments:1. I think this is going over 300, easy.2. I’ve lost track and have to read the comments thoroughly before coming in further. But I did notice the Kathy running unhindered to the top of the gallows comments which I did mention much earlier in the thread. I thought that was another moment breaker for me as did some of you because it was too obviously orchestrated and couldn’t possibly happen. Anyway, there’s so much more but I have to leave again. Great discussion everyone.

Comment by Greg

Ok, everyone, I need to go offline for a couple of hours. Talk amongst yourselves, play nice, and don’t take anything too seriously!Before I go,I just have to tell you all what a great discussion this has been. I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s comments and getting everyone’s perspectives – and the participation levels have exceeded my wildest expectations!! Keep talking, and I’ll see you back here a little later.

Comment by Pat

Overnight shifts again have prevented me from partaking in what looks to be a comment filled session of TOERIFC this month. Here are my late thoughts….————First off, Pat, this was a very well written entry. Great job! But I must say, I disagree with you on a few things. I think the soap opera plot is a perfect device to use in a movie that is juxtaposing musical logic to reality. I fully accept the ridiculousness of the plot holes (the time table blindness for one) for the effect it has on the mood of the picture. It feels very old fashioned, but is shot with digital cameras to give us an ENG like sense of reality.Another thing I believe you had a problem with was the musical numbers. I thought they were great. The way the colors popped. How the cameras lost that hand held shaky quality and became SUPER WIDE shots of people singing and dancing and bouncing off the walls. The energy in these parts is what made the fantasies so fun to watch. Also, I own every Bjork album, so it’s needless to say that I really enjoy the music.I think this was a great choice for TOERIFC. Lots of things to discuss from film style to story.Excellent film and write-up Pat!

Comment by JOSEPH CAMPANELLA

Joseph -Hey, good to see you here! Glad you could chime in. Thanks for your thoughts. I’ll admit the soap opera perspective didn’t occur to me until Marilyn and then you brought that up,but I’ll admit, it’s making more and more sense to me.As for the musical numbers, I think I’ve somehow given the impression that I dislike them more than I actually do. The music itself,I really like. The two numbers that I singled out (“I’ve Seen it All” and “Smith and Wesson”)I actually love. And my main problem with the other numbers is the editing that doesn’t allow me to focus on anything for as long as I want. I really enjoyed the rehearsal master videos of all the dances.

Comment by Pat

PAT-I know what you’re saying. I do myself enjoy the musical numbers of the past, with their sweeping dolly shots and great dances. But I think, like you said, it’s nice to have a steady shot on someone who can dance, but can Bjork? I haven’t watched the master tapes. Maybe I should give them a try. Also, admittedly, I am an editing junky. If there is fast editing done in a very stylistic way, I’m totally down, so don’t listen to me because I’m biased!

Comment by JOSEPH CAMPANELLA

Pat, I don’t know how many more comments this is going to get or if it’s all wrapped up now but I wanted to thank you for your wonderful selection and write-up and congratulate you on hosting the most fertile and prolific discussion yet for a TOERIFC film choice. I can only hope the posts that follow in our little club can match the success of this one. Thanks again.

Comment by Greg

Greg -My pleasure, although I believe the person we really have to thank – aside from all the participants – is Lars Von Trier, for being so poalrizing and controversial as to guarantee a spirited discussion!(As the reception of his latest film at Cannes this week confirms.)It was a great discussion, though. It’s always so great to get everyone’s different perspectives and be challenged to look at a film in a different way. I really enjoyed it.

Comment by Pat

Wonderful write-ups and controversial movie choices (who knew?) make for great comment streams. You were almost 100 over my total for “Boudu” on the first day. Well done!I didn’t personally think the movie was as bad as some of you all did. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, but I couldn’t make a case for it being the best musical of the past 20 or 30 years, as Kimberly suggested.But all in all, I’m glad I saw it; I wouldn’t have without the writeup and TOERIFC. Good job!

Comment by Rick Olson

I didn’t think it was that bad either. I think what happens in these discussions is that in an effort to analyze the film and understand it better we pick out what we think is wrong with it hoping for explanation. My beefs with the murder scene and execution scene had me thinking, and still thinking, von Triers wasn’t smart enough to show these scenes in the most effective way or to clarify his ideas on them. But oddly, that doesn’t mean I thought it was a bad film, just a failed one. I think that’s a difficult distinction for people to understand. I admire von Triers for attempting a story like this, I just feel in his execution, with visuals, editing and screenplay, he failed. But it was a noble failure and one in which I found much to admire.

Comment by Greg

Aaaaaaand Greg has now gotten through 258 comments without realizing that that Lars guy’s last name is von Trier, not von Triers. Just toerifc.

Comment by Ed Howard

But oddly, that doesn’t mean I thought it was a bad film, just a failed one…That’s probably fair, although I obviously think it failed more completely than most of you, with the possible exception of Ed.

Comment by bill r.

I’m probably somewhere between Bill and Greg on this one. Bjork’s music and performance save it from being a total disaster. Every contribution from von Trier pretty much ruins the film, but the performances elevate it above offensive. This has been a terrific discussion, and I’m glad my first foray into the TOERIFC was with such a divisive, comment-inducing film. This was a lot of fun. And kudos again to Pat.

Comment by Kevin J. Olson

I would also like to chime in and say this was a fantastic thread. And a fantastic write-up, Pat.This thread had everything. Suspense, Drama, Comedy. I can only hope when they make this thread into a movie, they pick someone great to play me.

Comment by PIPER

If only Marty Feldman was still with us…

Comment by bill r.

Ed, I was just trying to be subtle, making an almost covert yet subversive point that there are more than one Lars von Triers, hence plural. It’s all about subtlety, unlike Godard, who’s just obvious through and through.

Comment by Greg

Boy do I feel like a fool now. That was way too subtle for me.

Comment by Ed Howard

Well if Lars can add “von” to his nonaristocratic name, Greg can add an “s”, that’s all I’ve got to say.This was a great discussion, and I, too, probably would never have gone back to this film except “on assignment.” It was nice to have some new commenters joining in, too, to add to the number and quality of comments. I hope we’ve encouraged more people to participate.

Comment by Marilyn

Sorry, folks, its been a bit of a busy day here (I’m REALLY paying for taking yeasterday off!!)However, just wanted to echo the sentiments here, especially on how great it was to see some new “faces” in addition to the always-delightful crowd of regulars.Now, it’s back to work…..

Comment by Pat

I really like this movie quite a bit and I’m glad I was assigned to rewatch it.That’s what is great about this club. I see movies I have never seen and also, get to watch movies I know in a whole new light.Thanks Pat!

Comment by JOSEPH CAMPANELLA

this movie kind of sort of blew my mind

Comment by Matt

Matt -Yeah, I think I know what you mean. That’s how I would have described my reaction the first time I saw it.

Comment by Pat




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