Dancer in the dark

Director: LARS von TRIER, Denmark

Dancer in the Dark stars singer Bjork as a women pursuing her personal vision of the American dream.

Director Lars von Trier – a founder of the “Dogme” school of filmmaking originally signed the Icelandic singer solely to compose the score for the film. Instead Bjork made her acting debut as Selma, a Czech immigrant and single mother working at a factory in rural America. She harbours a sad secret: she is losing her eyesight from a hereditary disease, and her 10-year old son stands to suffer the same fate.

With a cast including David Morse, Peter Stormare and Catherine Deneuve, Dancer in the Dark is described by von Trier as “a musical melodrama colliding with reality”.

“It is definitely the most difficult production I have ever undertaken”, he said of the film, which concludes the trilogy with “The Idiots” and “Breaking the Waves”.

“I have always loved film musicals, and was looking for a new challenge. Dancer in the Dark came just at the right moment. But being ignorant about music, I had never heard the music of Bjork, before we started looking for a composer. Now I have, and I am very fond of it”, von Trier said. The letter from Catherine Deneuve, confirming her consent to work with von Trier deepened his interest.

Sweden stood in for Washington D. C. locations, leaving only second-unit work for the US, and all studio photography was based at Filmbyen (Film City). This 40,000 sqm of former military barracks at Avedore outside Copenhagen was turned into a production centre, where the dance sequences was shot simultaneously by 100 fixed Sony PD 100 cameras.

As von Trier screened 45 minutes of the feature to Peter Aalbak Jensen – Zentropa Entertainments co-owner – he decided not to go on with presales, but to wait for the film’s presentation at Cannes to demand a higher price.

The production went from the triumph at Cannes to raid the European Film Awards. Sold worldwide, von Trier’s melodrama was a gift to the Japanese: it has grossed in excess of 20 million dollars in Japan, or twice as much as in all other territories.

(From “Moving Pictures”)

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Dancer in the dark