BJORK STEALS SHOW IN THE DARK
By: Kristie Edelstein
Murder. Theft. These things are not typically topics of movie musicals. But Dancer in the Dark, directed by Lars Van Trier (Breaking the Waves) is not a typical movie. The movie focuses on Selma Jezkova’s (Bjork) secret that she is going blind. Selma is saving her money for her son to get an operation that will prevent him from the same fate. She does so by working in a factory making steel sinks during the day and carding bobby pins in her spare time. Complications with her saved money arise and that is where the plot thickens.
Shot in Sweden, the movie takes place in rural Washington state in the 1960s. Selma is a Czech immigrant who lives in a trailer she rents from her neighbors Bill and Linda (Dave Morse and Cara Seymour).
She finds relief from her daily life in musicals. At work she daydreams; she hears the layered sounds of the machines and turns them into songs. That and her failing eyesight hinder her work. She makes mistakes that her friend Kathy (Catherine Deneuve) often must cover up.
The movie was filmed using 100 hand-held cameras and videos. This documentary style gives a feeling of intimacy throughout the film, which is lost in today’s popular movies. Except for the musical scenes, the movie is void of background music. This allows the audience to invade actors’ conversations and lives.
The scenes of song and dance contrast the other moments in the film. As Van Trier says, the movie was “put together in two ‘shapes’: the musical scenes and some almost documentary scenes.” The “reality” scenes are sparse and dull in focus, while the moments where Selma seeps into her musical daydreams are brighter, richer in texture and more colorful.
Bjork steals the movie, showing off a talent for acting that was previously seen only in her music videos, specifically “It’s Oh So Quiet,” which was shot like a mini-musical. The role of Selma seems custom-fit for the Icelandic artist, which might be why she was awarded the Best Actress Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Van Trier himself describes her work in the film as “not acted, it’s felt.”
Matching with the film, Bjork released an EP, Selmasongs, containing the six songs from the movie. On it she does a duet with Thom Yorke of Radiohead.
Dancer in the Dark is a movie that takes risks. For that reason it is a movie one either loves or hates. It probably won’t do well in the box office and will likely go underappreciated by American moviegoers who would rather see another Adam Sandler movie. The movie runs almost three hours, which is a no-no for American cinema–unless the film is Titanic and the star is Leonardo Dicaprio.
A musical, but also a heavy, emotional drama, Dancer in the Dark is what a movie of the 21st century should be: challenging and unexpected.
GIRLFIGHT IS ANYTHING BUT A KNOCK OUT
By: Janette Amadio
A tough street punk decides to pursue the grisly world of boxing. While being trained by an old has-been of the boxing world this fighter falls in love. Sound familiar? If you’re thinking of the movie Rocky, guess again. Girlfight is the new independent film that focuses on a young Latino woman struggling in life and love.
Newcomer Michelle Rodriguez, portrays tomboy Diana Guzman in this feature that won Best Drama at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. After being reprimanded at school for fighting, Diana decides to lash out in the boxing ring. This is where she can ignore the trouble she has with her detached father and the lack of a social life.
The trainer, played by Jaime Tirelli (Big, Carlito’s Way), gives Diana the oh-too-convincing speech about how “strong will” leads to greatness. Her recognition her inner identity leads her to become a champion inside and outside of the ring.
Predictable, unoriginal, and somewhat cheesy, Girlfight should have been used as an after-school special instead of a feature-length film. Throughout this lackluster movie, the audience is sent the hopeful messages of a self-help session.
A bad script accounts for the film’s horrible acting. Our leading lady, although in every scene, hardly says more than five words at a time. This makes her character seem undeveloped and lackadaisical. When the actors do show some emotion, it is usually exaggerated.
Last time I checked, you weren’t supposed to be able to tell that the people on the screen are actually acting. The one thing I did find interesting while watching this movie is that people can actually fall asleep while sitting in theater seats. I had to wake the person next to me when it was time to leave.
If a Hallmark movie is what you need, then Girlfight is for you. If not, it is best to wait until it reaches cable. Which, in all likelihood, will be very soon.