It is a shame Bjork will never do another movie after having done "Dancer in the Dark." She has a tremendous talent in acting as well as a genius in her music, unlike some other musicians who cross over to film. Ironically, some of the singers who are bad at acting continue to pursue a career in it, while others who are good, never do.
The story focuses on Selma (Bjork), a Czech immigrant who is slowly becoming blind due a genetic condition. She is a single mother who works multiple jobs in order to raise money for her son, Gene (Vladan Kostic) to get an operation that would fix his eyes when he turns 13. However, her savings are stolen by her landlord/next-door neighbor, Bill (David Morse), and she is forced to kill him to get it back, which leads to her arrest, trial, and conviction.
Selma is a huge fan of musicals, and when she is not working, she is rehearsing for a local production of "The Sound of Music" (it is really interesting to hear Bjork's rendition of "My Favorite Things"). She imagines her life as if it were a musical because her fascination with them is so dominant. Events in her daily life would play out as events do in musicals, when action and dialogue stops, the music starts, and people dance as Selma begins singing.
The story surrounding Selma is a sad and tragic one. Bjork portrays her with naivetÈ and an angelic quality, which makes one wonder if she was not only blind but also mentally disabled. Nevertheless, Selma is a sweet character and quite loveable. She also interacts well with other characters in the movie; in fact, the scene when she kills Bill has some touching moments, although it is disturbing at the same time.
What Bjork succeeds in, on top of her characterization of Selma, is her interaction with other characters. Full of touching moments throughout the film, each character seemed to be really touched by Selma's presence. Her relationship with Kathy (Catherine Denevue) was especially touching when she had to tell Selma what was going on in the movies they went to see. Even though Bill was a despicable character, there was tenderness between them, even when she was killing him. Morse does a wonderful job of transforming his character from a nice guy to a callous, demented, and weak one.
The filming itself was also very good. The majority of it was in a documentary style with a lot of hand-held camera angles and the colors were subdued. But when the musical numbers began, the quality of the film changed: the colors became more vivid, and the camera more stable. It was quite an interesting technique and changes the bleakness of Selma's life.
For example: she turns her cold, lifeless factory into a jovial scene. Also, the courtroom scene, when she is prosecuted is altered into an upbeat musical number.
With Bjork in the movie, she is definitely going to sing, especially if the movie is a musical. Her singing contribution adds to her acting and the songs were also very moving. The choreography was interesting in that she would take the scenes from her daily life and turn them into dance numbers. For example, at her trial, Selma and the prosecutor would dance with one another. It gave a unique self-interpretive element. The duet in the film, "I've Seen it All" is nominated for an Academy Award. The movie soundtrack, "Selma Songs," adds more of a dynamic to the music when Bjork sings the other parts of the duet.
Due to all of its successes, the movie is rather long and since it is a hard and depressing movie to watch, its length just draws out the pain. The movie has been out for quite some time, and it only came to Anchorage recently, shown at the Bear's Tooth. It will be released on DVD and VHS for rental on March 20.