Bjorking the Waves

Dancer in the Darks beautiful agony

It's not exactly likability that confers sainthood on Selma: her intractable refusal of compromise may mirror von Trier's own. It takes a blinkered outlook and a modicum of ruthlessness to be a committed martyr—martyrs are not, by nature, liberals. But she is also like her creator in being prepared to do what it takes to serve her goals. That same bizarre brew of absolutist attachment to principles and ruthless opportunism may have led von Trier to write, without apparent irony, in the production notes, "I'm deeply against the death penalty. On the other hand, execution scenes are God's gift to directors." No doubt that's why he wrings every last drop of terror and ecstasy from Selma's last walk toward the hangman's noose. That you keep watching is a measure of von Trier's art—and Björk's ardor. As is the feeling of defilement with which you walk away.

dancer in the dark was written and directed by lars von trier; produced by vibeke windeløv; and stars Björk, Catherine Deneuve, Peter Stormare and David Morse. Now playing at edwards lido, newport beach.

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