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Dancer In The Dark

Reviewed by: Rachel Hughes
Genre: Drama
Video: Anamorphic 2.40:1 Widescreen
Audio: English 5.1 Dolgy Digital and DTS Surround Sound
Language: English
Subtitle: English
Length: 2hrs 21mins
Rating: R
Release Date: 4-1-01
Studio: New Line Platinum Series
Commentary: Two commentaries, one with Writer/Director Lars von Trier, Producer Vibeke Windelov, Technical Supervisor Peter Hjorth, and Artist Per Kirkeby. Second by Choreographer Vincent Paterson.
Documentaries: Two: 100 Cameras, Choreography
Featurettes: None
Filmography/Biography: Biography Filmography for all principle actors
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: Yes
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: Three Alternate Scenes
Music Video None: None
Other Collectable Booklet: Selma's Music
Cast and Crew: Bjork, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Peter Stormare, Jean-Marc Barr and Joel Grey
Screenplay by: Lars von Trier
Produced by: Vibeke Windelov
Directed By: Lars von Trier
Music: Bjork
The Review: "Dancer in the Dark" (Best Picture Cannes Film Festival) tells the story of Selma (Bjork), a factory worker in rural America. Selma is going blind due to a hereditary condition, and she is saving money for an operation that will keep her son from sharing her fate. She escapes her harsh reality by listen to the rhythms in the sounds around her and daydreams herself into musicals, for as Selma said nothing dreadful ever happens in a musical. However Selma's life begins spinning out of control when a friend betrays her trust, and she spends more and more time in her musical world seemingly unaware of the fate that awaits her. "Dancer in the Dark" is a movie that sneaks up on you. The beginning is a bit slow as you watch and learn about the different characters, and you don't feel connected to them. Then without warning the movie takes a radical turn to the left, and drags you hurtling along an unexpected path with Selma. By the end of film you can't take your eyes of Bjork. This movie is worth watching for Bjork's incredible performance, and I can't imagine anyone more deserving of the Best Female Performance Award she won at the Cannes Film Festival.
Image and Sound The use of color in the film is an important one. Whenever Selma has a musical fantasy, the color would become unnaturally bright. This effect is clearly evident in the DVD. Since most of the film was shot using hand held cameras, to give it a more intimate feel, there are a few noticeable cuts in the film. However the quality of the image itself is flawless. Just as important as color was the use of sound. The musical numbers are all clearly heard. The wonderful quality of Bjork's voice isn't lost. You can clearly hear the patterns in the sounds that constantly surrounded Selma. Even in the factory the voices are easy to make out, with out being overbearing. Since the movie is dialogue driven, it is difficult to tell the difference between the DTS and the 5.1.
The Extras This disc is packed with a lot of high quality extras. There are two documentaries: 100 Cameras: Capturing Lars Von Trier's Vision, and Choreography: Creating Vincent Paterson's Dance Sequences. The first one is especially interesting. When shooting all of the musical numbers in the film the director has 100 cameras running at every angle. This commentary explains how and why they did this, along with the logistical nightmare it proved to be to the crew. Vincent Paterson who did all of the choreography for the movie hosts the second documentary. He explains how the process of creating the dance numbers was carried out from creating the steps, rehearsals to final cut. Included in the documentary are the Train Song, Cradda Song, and the Courtroom Song dance sequences. The sequences are intercut with rehearsals in studio, on set, and final cut. Most interesting though is an alternative dance sequence for the 107 Steps sequence. Under the alternative scenes there are three differently cut dance sequences. It is difficult to tell exactly what has been changed. There is one for Cradda, and two for Train Song. An especially nice feature is called Selma's Music. This is a menu that will take you directly to any of the songs in the film. To round out the extras there is the Cast and Crew filmographies, and the original theatrical trailer.
Commentary There are two commentary tracks for this film. The first one is by Writer/Director Lars von Trier, Producer Vibeke Windelov, Technical Supervisor Peter Hjorth, and Artist Per Kirkeby. This commentary is packed with information. All four people recorded separate commentaries and then they were spliced together. In this case it was probably the best idea. All of participants have heavy, but understandable, accents. However if they were trying to talk at once, it would be easy to get lost. This is a wonderful selection of people. They each provide wonderful information on the area of the film they worked with. The second commentary is by Choreographer Vincent Paterson. Paterson is an American and easy to understand. It was a bit worrying to see a choreographer commentary because the choreography takes place in a limited number of scenes. However Paterson talks through the whole film, and not just about the choreography. His is just as interesting as the first commentary. He covers almost every aspect of production from a unique viewpoint.
Final Words: This film is not for everyone. It is a dark drama whose songs haunt you. However it won Best Picture at the Cannes Film Festival for a reason. The film is definitely worth renting, especially to see Bjork's amazing acting debut. It has enough extras to rate it as worth buying, but it isn't the sort of film one would watch over and over again.

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May 26, 2001