Wednesday, May 16

Why Björk Will Never Act Again

Dancer in the Dark premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000. At the Cannes, the film was awarded the festival's most prestigious Palme d'Or award, while Björk won best actress. Unless you're a fan of rather obscure indies, this film probably flew under your radar screen. But Dancer in the Dark has affected me more than most any other film, particularly in how I imagine the Cross.

The film is a modern musical drama that is both horrific and wonderful. Björk composed and performed the entire soundtrack, Selmasongs, with a guest album appearance by Radiohead's Thom Yorke. The soundtrack is stunning and emotive.

You may remember Björk from her swan-studded performance at the Academy Awards in 2000. Her song "I Have Seen it All" from Dancer in the Dark gained a nomination. Known for her innovative and complex musical compositions, starring in a motion picture was a first for the Icelandic singer-songwriter. And, Björk said, it would also be her last. After seeing this film, and the emotional brutality of it all, you can't blame her.

Director Lars von Trier uses hand-held cameras through much of the movie to give it the look of a gritty documentary. And gritty, it is. This is not a film for the faint of heart.

Selma is a single mother and Czech immigrant. Plagued by a hereditary disease that slowly degenerates her sight into blindness, she is equally plagued by the knowledge that her young son will likewise eventually go blind. And so, Selma works night and day in a factory, saving every penny that she might pay for her son to receive a restorative surgery. All this, that he might see.

Dancer in the Dark speaks to me of the grit of authentic love. It is a story of sacrifice and pain, with much beauty in between. I see Christ all throughout it's scenes, particularly in the simple gentleness of Selma, in her agonizing selflessness, and in the outstanding creations of the soundtrack. The climax is terrible, having seen it would cause you to reflect on Calvary in unique and haunting ways.

Although there are obvious portraits of the road to Golgotha in this film, I am most moved by the raw and awful beauty throughout. Björk's artistic performance is riveting--as actor and as composer/singer--and is dripping with the creativity of the Uncreated One. It is in these unsuspecting discs of overlooked independent films and music where I most appreciate encountering the aroma of Jesus.

This month's synchroblog is focused on Christianity and Film. Check out the smart and witty things the other synchros are saying on the matter:

Steve Hayes ponders The Image of Christianity in Films
Adam Gonnerman pokes at The Spider's Pardon
David Fisher thinks that
Jesus Loves Sci-Fi

John Morehead considers Christians and Horror Redux: From Knee-Jerk Revulsion to Critical Engagement
Marieke Schwartz lights it up with
Counter-hegemony: Jesus loves Borat

Mike Bursell muses about Christianity at the Movies
Cobus van Wyngaard contemplates Theology and Film (as art)
Tim Abbott tells us to
Bring your own meaning...?

Sonja Andrews visits The Good,
The Bad, and The Ugly: Christ in Spaghetti Westerns

Steve Hollinghurst takes a stab at The Gospel According to Buffy
Les Chatwin insists We Don't Need Another Hero
Lance Cummings says The Wooden Wheel Keeps Turning
John Smulo weaves a tale about Spiderman 3 and the Shadow
Josh Rivera spells well with
Christian Witchcraft

Phil Wyman throws out the Frisbee: Time to Toss it Back
Sally Coleman is Making Connections- films as a part of a mythological tradition
Dr. Kim Paffenroth investigates Nihilism Lite


John Smulo said...

I didn't know she acted. Talented woman. I'll have to watch the film.

I'll be waiting for you to quote some of lyrics :-)

Pastor Phil said...

Jeepers! Do you write movie critiques for a living? That was awesome.

lisa said...

yes, i would say Dancer is the best expose of the Cross i've seen. it's too much for me to watch again but i'm very glad i watched it once.

Jenelle said...

B is outstanding in this movie. She never acted before...

The lyrics are intense!

Jenelle said...

Thanks for the shout out. I like playing with words.

Jenelle said...

I know. It pretty much rips your heart out. I'm happy you've seen it. Oh wait! Was it my copy you watched in Manique? :)

Marieke said...

Bjork is an amazing and extrememly talented musician - I had no idea she was in a movie.

I added the movie to our Netflix queue right after I read your post yesterday!

Jenelle said...

That makes me happy. Just don't watch the movie if you're having an extra-sad day. It's too much.

Marieke said...

Noted! I'll make sure I'm in the right mood ;D

lisa said...

speaking of deep, impactful things, i've been listening to sufjan in my jet-lag, awake at goofy hours spells. i think his songs are big fat steaks and i can only listen to one or two at a time. the one i am mostly blown away by right now s the one about the girl dying of bone cancer and him talking all frank and sweet about that passage. sadly, i don't know the title so i look to you, oh sufjan expert. colin's pod carries it at "track 11" cuz it came off a mix cari b. gave jesse.

lisa said...

and ps

yes, it was YOUR copy of Dancer we watched in our holy little living room that housed some of my favorite gatherings of church :-)

Mel said...

I love her music, but I had no idea she was in a film. I will definitely have to check it out. Your description has me itching to see it. I miss watching incredible obscure films...