I was surprised to see some of my friends in tears after watching Dancer in the Dark, since I found the film uplifting. I haven’t yet encountered anybody else who has reacted this way, so I’m curious to hear from the MUBI crowd: does nobody find Selma’s victory to be an affirmative, uplifting message? Granted, she dies, but she clearly does so by choice in order to get what she wants. While it may be depressing that this is the only way for her to succeed, I found the fact that she manages to overcome many cold (and often hostile) obstacles uplifting.
I’d have to watch it again, but I remember feeling depressed and emotionally drained after that film. The others watching with me seemed to feel the same.
haha, no I thought it was very, very funny. Von Trier has a wicked sense of humor but I wouldn’t call it uplifting. Bjork’s character is just naive and silly. I mean think about it, everything that happens to her is a result of her childish fear that her son will find out about his eye defect. Is this not a big joke? She is so worried about how it will effect him that she goes to death for it. This is comedy. It is feminine intutition taken to it’s logical conclusion. Von Trier, one of the greatest mysogonists working in cinema!
“everything that happens to her is a result of her childish fear that her son will find out about his eye defect.”
Um, actually it’s because she tried to get the money together for the operation that things go bad for her isn’t it? Yes she hides the truth from her son, but that isn’t what causes things to go bad for her.
Also I don’t see how it is childish of her to hide the truth from her son. Her son doesn’t need to know. There is no advantage to her telling him and making him scared when she can instead earn the money and then tell him about his eye defect once she knows he can definitely be operated on and cured. If anything, it is the mature thing not to tell her son about it…
Oh, and it’s the most emotionally draining film I have ever seen. At the end I felt like von Trier had assaulted me and left me to die in an alleyway. Which, perhaps oddly, is exactly why I really love the film.
I’m with Cecil on this one (though I had to FF through at least two of the songs).
I’ve heard this criticism of Von Trier especially with Antichrist, that the film is a big “fuck you” to cinephiles, and that the dedication to Tarkovsky is a middle finger, but I honestly think those are missing the point of the film and I think so is the interpretation of Dancer as that it was meant to be funny.
“I’d have to watch it again, but I remember feeling depressed and emotionally drained after that film.”
elston… do you have any kids? :(
haha, you guys totally missed it. Yeah, it’s supposed to be emotionally draining, but think about how pathetic and irrational this character is. She caused her own downfall more than anyone. Her heart is in the right place, but her mind is not. This occured so me so strikingly first viewing, long before Antichrist came out, and I’ve seen similar aspects in other women in his films, especially Breaking the Waves and Dogville. Naive women. He has a hard on for them. Don’t you get a central point of the film, Selma is embarassed about her eyes and doesn’t tell anyone she is blind. She tries to perform the selfless act for her child, so he won’t feel the same pain. Think about how different everything would have been if she wasn’t so uncomfortable with her own eyes. I know that she doesn’t really have a choice, since she needs a job, and is rightfully protective of her child. But it is this one seemingly minor character flaw that sends her to her death. How is that not comedy? She is too trusting and has such a warped idealistic view of the world. The scene at the end is just reality closing in on her. See every other Von Trier movie as an example of this. The ending of Breaking the Waves is exactly the same. I laughed at that as well. If you don’t laugh at this character as much as you feel bad for her, I think you’re really missing part of the movie.
^^^If that’s what Von Trier really intended, then i have even less respect for him that i did previously. what an emotionally retarded individual.
wait are you talking about Von Trier or me.
^^Von Trier homie! ;-) I’m taking your interpretation to be ‘right’, although i hope it isn’t.
Honestly, my favourite Von Trier movie in the last few years was ‘The Boss Of It All’. i wouldn’t mind seeing another film like that from him.. it was like a smart version of Office Space.
I do think there’s an element of her naivete leading to her downfall, but it’s pretty ridiculous to think we’re supposed to laugh at her. I think we’re supposed to judge the people who take advantage of weakness, and reexamine our own idealism.
If you’re going to blame the main character for her neighbor stealing her money then a hostile legal system bearing down on her to satiate the public’s nationalist bloodlust, you should equally blame all rape victims.
Then again, I lost 90% of my respect for Von Trier after I saw Europa. It made me view him as a gimmickry-driven director who contrives drama through artificial moral imperatives and fashionable misanthropy.
The character’s main problem is that she thinks people are good. The character in Dogville had the same problem. And it took her a long time to see the truth. And actually when you think about it – it IS her fault the neighbour steals the money. She lied to everyone and pretended that she wasn’t blind. She shares a lot of similarities with the cop character who steals her money. He hid secrets from his wife, and was able to blackmail Selma because she had secrets of her own (where did the money come from?). Don’t you see how funny this is? All Selma’s hard work for her son has gone to waste, not because of evil people like the neighbour, but because of her weakness. I think the film examines principles like honesty and deception and flips them around on us. Selma is not a bad person, like the cop, but her lies get her in a lot of trouble don’t they. Her naiveity does not excuse her foolishness, though it does help us empathize with her more than the other characters. The movie is a fable after all, not real life (as all Von Trier movies seem to be).
How is blaming rape victims a proper analogy? Rape victims aren’t penalized by the state are they. No, typically the perpetrators are, occassionally unjustly. Selma is symbolically raped in the film and it IS HER FAULT. She is too stupid to see it coming.
And yet there is even feminist themes in the film, since Selma is judged by a patriarchal system designed to keep people like her neighbour in line (sry cant remember his name right now). She is a foriegner in more ways than one. She believes foolishly in the American dream and look where that gets her. The film shows how dangerous idealism can be.
“Don’t you see how funny this is?”
There is nothing fucking funny about it!!!
There is nothing funny about Dancer in the Dark; though evidently some critics have found that the best way to discredit von Trier is to proclaim that all his movies are practical jokes (they’re not). There is also nothing gimmicky about Europa either (though admittedly its plot, which is basically a collection of deliberate genre clichés, is secondary to the actual sensory experience of the atmosphere and design).
As for the initial question; it is uplifting only if you choose to see Selma as a modern day martyr. She successfully sacrifices herself for the benefit of her child. However, even then, the fact that she is destroyed, regardless of how beneficial her actions were to the future of her son, confirms that the world is essentially a corrupt place, willing to punish ‘the good’ in the most deplorable way possible.
Obviously there is a large element of social critique at work here (which continues into the subsequent Dogville), and I’m not entirely sure if von Trier wants us to celebrate the self-sacrifice of Selma as a sign of pure goodness in the world, or condemn the society that used and destroyed her.
I didn’t see anything comic about the film and I’m not sure it’s accurate to say that Selma was “too stupid to see it coming”. She certainly didn’t anticipate the way things would turn out and is quite naive, but she does know what is happening and does make a choice — particularly in the end, when she is explicitly given a choice and prefers to die in order to ensure that her son gets the operation he needs.
To me, her perseverance and, ultimately, success in the face of people and institutions that are hostile, callous or trying to take advantage of her provide an uplifting message: despite immense adversity, Selma does manage to get her way. While this success is at the cost of her own life, this is nevertheless a choice that she makes; to my mind, the overall message is ultimately positive.
I also seem to recall that Selma said at some point that she always stops a film ‘before the last song’ because then it never ends (or goes on forever or something). I took that as direct advice from von Trier — if you discount the final song of the film, you’ll never see Selma die and the film ends with her victory (in terms of getting the operation for her son).
LIGHTS: agree with you about Dancer, but i think Dogville is more the latter(i.e condemning the society that uses/manipulates etc). the difference is dogville’s ending is a bit of sick humour on Von Trier’s part, as the character gets her ‘revenge’ on them.
LIGHTS: I haven’t been thinking that we’re supposed to celebrate her sacrifice as a sign of pure goodness in the world. What I found uplifting about it was the victory of a determined/dedicated individual over a (corrupt?) society that used and destroyed her. In that sense, I see a connection with Dogville (and the ‘revenge’ mentioned by JOKS), though in the case of Dogvill the situation seems a bit less straightforward, since Grace Mulligan wants different things as the film progresses. I’m not sure Grace ever did get what she wanted and her ‘revenge’ seems to me to be more of a judgement (or perhaps a combination of judgement and revenge).
I see the ending of Dogville as another incidence of Von Trier’s idea that idealism begets extremism.
The main character of Dancer in the Dark doesn’t understand the world, and her denial of her blindness is a symptom of her introversion and unwillingness to burden others with her problems. These are her character flaws that led to her downfall, but if you think somebody ‘deserves’ to be destroyed because they have personal weaknesses, I’d hate to think how you treat people in your own life.
Europa is an extremely gimmicky film. The hypnotism narrative is pretty hollow, and style elements such as the black and white versus color with the projected backgrounds lack any real substance and seem to me designed around pandering to critics and hipsters. It’s also one of his more extreme examples of artificial moral dichotomy. Two sides are cruelly killing each other, oh, but if you don’t pick an evil to side with you’re even worse.
Von Trier’s idea of social critique is very one dimensional as well. Everybody is corrupt, so screw them. Yes, people are selfish, but most of them are pretty empathetic too. Von Trier doesn’t entertain even the possibility of the two coexisting.
I’m not passing moral judgement on her, Jirin. When I say she deserved it, I’m saying what happened makes sense. Remember how she can’t even watch movies, she needs someone to explain what is happening? I reckon Selma’s blindness is more than just a physical ailment. She is probably blind to the world as well and the people in it. Completely oblivious in her own little world. Doesn’t she wander across train tracks and almost get killed? Doesn’t she mindlessly sing songs in the factory, which is her whole livelihood? She is an accident waiting to happen, and yes, dare I say, very funny. The ending to me could be a lot of things. It could be the cruel society, but it could be people like Selma do not survive in the world, because they live in a dream.
Very interesting reaction. I find the ending of Breaking the Waves to be uplifting, but Dancer in the Dark drags me down.
Dancer in the Dark is one of the most physically draining films I have ever seen. About halfway through the movie, I began watching it in 3x fast forward so as to reduce my propensity to vomit.
The worst movie I have ever seen! Watching it actually took something away from my life. It was totally unneccesary to show the Bjork character in such endless torment and suffering. I think Von Trier hates people in general and women in particular. I really have no intention of watching any of his other films.
Nothing funny about watching innocent people suffer and die.
No, I don’t find it uplifting. I like a lot of what the film tries to do (the music, and the way we enter her world), but von Trier undoes whatever power was there in the final act. The scene after scene of tragedy just started feeling melodramatic, indulgent and silly.
Actually Elston what you are doing is passing moral judgment on her. The fact that you can’t see that and think the film is comical is disturbing. Life happens. Wrong choices will be made. Uncontrollable circumstances will occur. All you can do is try to do what you think is right.
I just read a bunch of Lars von trier interviews and I see nothing that would suggest that he thinks this film is funny. And he doesn’t find that he portrays any of his female leads as weak. In one interview he even refers to them as strong and makes a comment that suggests that they and himself are feminists. Which may be why it’s somehow ‘uplifting’. But not funny.