I don’t understand why people say that Bjork’s film Dancer in the Dark is good let alone “brilliant”. To me, DitD is probably one of the worst pieces of cinema I have ever had to suffer through. In fact, I found it so horrible, that when I set out to write this, I didn’t even bother to re-watch it to take notes, despite the fact that I haven’t seen it since it first came out on DVD. Yes DVD. I didn’t see it in the theatre. Not because I was avoiding it, I just happened to miss it when it was on the big screen. I didn’t re-watch it because even the idea of watching it again made me more than a little ill.
Anyway, you might be wondering why out of the blue I’ve decided to write about a movie I haven’t seen in years. Well, I’ll tell you. I was perusing my favorite on-line mag Slate.com and saw an article perporting to discuss the “saddest movie scenes of the last 15 years”. You can find said article HERE. With my interest peaked, I dove in to reading the article and discovered that they’d identified the final scene of DitD as one the “saddest”.
On the contrary, I found the final scene to DitD to be the most gleefully wonderful because it was the scene where (SPOILER ALERT) Bjork’s character is hung. I was never a supporter of the death penalty until that moment.
I’d argue, that if you must choose a scene from DitD to be one of the “saddest of the last 15 years”, it would be the title card immediately following the final scene which reads “They say it’s the last song/They don’t know us, you see/It’s only the last song/If we let it be.” A phrase from the film’s “theme” song which basically means, “you may think it’s over, but it ain’t”, perhaps the most devastating thing you could possibly say to those of us who suffered through the last two and a half hours of filmic hell.
Why do I hate Dancer in the Dark so much?? Because it commits the cardinal sin of entertainment. Any entertainment. It is BORING. Not just in spots – but the WHOLE DAMN 2.5 HOURS. By the time it was finally over, I seriously thought it had been a 5 hour film!
When I tell folks I Hate (capital “H”) DitD, they (if they like it), generally respond with “Well, do you like Bjork?” Implying that if I don’t like Bjork, that must be the only reason I don’t like the movie. You know what? I like Bjork. She’s not first on my iPod playlist, and – let’s face it – she is kinda weird, but I don’t dislike her, or her music. So you can’t blame my dislike of the movie on any dislike of her. So there.
Besides finding DitD unbearably boring (there were moments when I contemplated gnawing my own arm off as a distraction), the claim that it’s a “musical” is an insult to genuine movie musicals. A musical should have at least one “hummable” tune that you can walk out of the theatre (or in my case the living room) humming jauntily to yourself and thinking, “for that song alone I shall buy the cast album”. The only way I can describe the music in DitD is “groanable”. As in, “I groaned in pain until the music finally stopped.”
Additionally, the hand-held digital camera cinematography made me want to puke, It worked fine for Breaking the Waves (which was also directed by DitD’s Lars von Trier) because it served as an allegory for how unbalanced the lives of the main characters had become and yadda-yadda, yackety-smackety… artistic merit, or something. In DitD it’s just annoying and sea-sick inducing. Some may argue that because Bjork’s character is (SPOILER) going blind the hand-held camera acts as a way of communicating how the world feels around her. To that I say, since when in heck-fire do blind people think the world “feels” bouncy?
Finally, the whole damn film is nothing but pointless, stupid, melodrama. Don’t get me wrong again, I happen to enjoy melodramas, especially ones that involve a man with a curled, black mustache and a knife in his boot, like this —
But the nice thing about melodramas, generally, is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They realize that the story they’re telling is preposterously silly, and they let you in on the joke. DitD was just the opposite. It was a dull, self-indulgent, over-the-top, silly mess of crap that takes itself far, FAR too seriously and did not let anyone in on anything. And there wasn’t even a guy with a black mustache!
I will say that those who I have come across who do like DitD are of a particularly artsy-fartsy ilk. They seem to feel that they recognize a deeper meaning behind all the hand-wringing and eye-glass-adjusting and pathos. I consider myself to be artsy-fartsy to a degree… but not so much that I can’t tell a piece of art from an obvious come on.
Silk Stockings, the 1957 MGM musical starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, and featuring the Cole Porter tune “Dancing in the Dark”, for which the movie I am discussing here is named = Art.
Dancer in the Dark? Come on.