These factors may also have prevented the UCI Film Society from screening it. Instead, to open the series, they are presenting Dancer in the Dark, which served as von Trier's opportunity to thumb his nose at Dogme conventions. Always the prankster, von Trier long ago added the "von" to his last name just to make it sound more interesting, and there's logic in his decision to diss an anti-genre that was already experiencing a backlash. So not only is Dancer in the Dark set in rural 1960s America yet shot mainly in Sweden (that's two vows broken), but it's also a musical (ding) supposedly shot with 100 cameras (ding), and the film's score was recorded in a studio (ding). So much sin.
Icelandic pop elf Björk does a surprisingly adept acting job in what is probably her first and last such appearance (she swore off acting after the emotional turmoil she went through in the role, which won her the 2000 Cannes Film Festival's Best Actress award) as Selma. She's an Eastern European factory worker/single mom who is going blind and suspects her son has inherited the same genetic disorder. She secretly saves money to buy her son an operation, but her broke next-door neighbor discovers this, and the film takes a tragic turn—one that might have been prevented. But she's too caught up in her fantasy musical world to register this fact, and besides, von Trier has some fixation with female martyrs (Bess in Breaking the Waves), so the possibility of Selma telling anyone the truth behind her inaction seems beyond the film's logic. This is one of those productions that people either praise as a fine update to the stale musical genre (it won the esteemed Palme d'Or at Cannes) or find downright irritating. In this, the film is unquestionably Dogmetic.
Dancer in the Dark screens as the first presentation of UC Irvine Film Society's Dogme 95: The Emergence of a New Genre series at UCI Student Center, Crystal Cove Auditorium, Campus & W. Peltason drives, Irvine, (949) 824-5588; www.filmsociety.uci.edu. Fri., 7 & 9 p.m. $3-$5.