Three weeks ago we watched the film Dancer in the Dark (2000), directed and written by Lars von Trier, in our postmodern lecture series. Firstly I have to say although it was a depressing film, I kind of didn't mind it. It is a musical starring the singer Bjork, who is known for creating unconventional music.
The film is about a young single mother immigrant in America called Selma Jezkova, who is working long hours to save up enough money to pay for her son to have an operation to preserve his sight. Their family has a history of eye sight deteriorating quickly over time, that eventually leaves you blind. She herself was going blind. Over time she has earned almost enough money, working in a factory by day and extra work at night, both requiring good eyesight. It all goes down hill when she looses her sight and her job and her money stolen by someone considered to be a friend. This leads to a struggle, which causes the accidental death of the thief.
The story is cruel in the way those certain events lead to a choice between saving her sons sight or else her being sentenced to death. When the music played, it is like we were seeing a daydream of what she was thinking and experienceing. It is her way of escaping all the troubles of the real world. Even when facing death she picks up a beat in the marching to make music and to forget the problems and worries ahead.
It is an unexpected setting for a musical. The main point to get from this film is that where a conventional musical is bold and theatrical, the setting in this film was gritty and with murky, with dull tones of colour, which make it feel more realistic. There is extreme contrast when music is introduced into the film, which doesn't appear for the first half hour or so, when things start to go wrong for Selma. The music naturally still has it's effect of feeling relaxed, comfortable and safe. This almost feels inappropriate for the film because you know that you shouldn't be feeling that way when so many bad things are happening. Of course this wasn't a bad movie mistake, but actually all intentional to create a postmodern depressing film.