On The Edge Films

Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds

I Wish I Was… Björk in Dancer In The Dark

bjork dancer in the dark

When asked to contribute my own article for this series  I have to admit I struggled. I find it hard to define myself and I think that’s probably true of most individuals and I sort of hope that’s the case as well. It’d be tempting to say I saw myself as Marty McFly or Han Solo, those cool heroes of the silver screen who always got the girl, but that would be a lie. I was actually tempted to pick a less lucky character. I’m a John Hughes fan, so thoughts of Ducky from Pretty In Pink or Alison from The Breakfast Club came to mind. Even Fredo, the well-meaning runt of the Corleone clan in The Godfather trilogy came to mind, but that would be perhaps an unfair reflection on how things really are. I came to my choice, not via a flash of inspiration but by a dawning conclusion.

I’ve yet to warm to Lars Von Trier. His personal reputation isn’t endearing, although I think he couldn’t care less, and I think of the literally dogmatic approach to film-making that he does is almost antithetical to artistic expression. Yet I do admire his craft and I have to admit that I have a genuine soft-spot for Dancer In The Dark; Von Trier’s tale of a fan of musicals who is losing her sight and is framed for murder. She’s also played by Icelandic singer Björk in, sadly, her only screen performance as an actress.

Björk’s character of Selma, an Eastern-European factory worker living in the 60’s America is not exactly an heroic archetype. Small, mousy and timid with glasses prominently positioned on her constantly down-turned face, it’s hard to see why at first why someone would see her as admirable. I see those qualities in myself and I share her background in musical theatre. Despite my regular penchant for science-fiction and horror movies, I do have a disposition towards musicals and in my past, I’ve honed skills to that end. I can sing a little, act a little (I can’t dance a lick) and I understand that world and also the mentality of someone who shares that interest. We’re both dreamers. Not in the sense of ambitions but simply in embracing the worlds of fantasy and daydream, even if it distracts from what’s important.

However, I find I fall short in Selma’s courage. Whilst it would be easy to make her seem just simple-minded, Björk’s performance gives Selma a defiant dignity right up until things seem their worst. She lives by simple ethical codes but she’s steadfast with them and clearly intelligent. She embraces the magic of film and of music and of the imagination those bring forth and uses her fantasies to escape but also to simply deal with the confrontations before her, similar to Sam Lowry of Brazil (of whom, I also could’ve written this article about).

A lot of people don’t like Dancer In The Dark. It’s American-set but clearly filmed in Europe and with a largely European cast. Its artsiness may be a little too much for some and the message it hammers in towards the film’s conclusion might rub some people up the wrong way. Personally, I think it’s a powerful and unique film and so much of what is best about it, and about humanity, comes from Björk’s great performance.

-Ben Halford

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This entry was posted on August 20, 2014 by in I Wish I Was and tagged , , , .
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