[Movie] The worst ending avoided: A review of ‘Dancer in the Dark (Director Lars von Trier, Starring Björk)

I wrote this article in Japanese and translated it into English using ChatGPT. I also used ChatGPT to create the English article title. I did my best to correct any translation mistakes, but please let me know if you find any errors. By the way, I did not use ChatGPT when writing the Japanese article. The entire article was written from scratch by me, Saikawa Goto.



Movies and books covered in this article

(Click This Image to Go Directly to the Amazon Prime Video Movie “Dancer in the Dark”: Image from Amazon.com)

I will write an article about this movie/book

Three takeaways from this article

  1. Impressions of watching “Dancer in the Dark” without even knowing the information that it starred Björk.
  2. The musical scenes were so enjoyable that Selma’s real-life difficulties were brilliantly highlighted.
  3. I don’t like the term “mother’s love,” but Selma’s love is strong enough to make me want to say so, and its merits and demerits.

From the bottom of my heart, I strongly hope that people like Selma will live happily.

Self-introduction article

Please refer to the self-introduction article above to learn about the person writing this article. Be sure to check out the Kindle book linked below as well.

Published Kindle books(Free on Kindle Unlimited)

“The genius Einstein: An easy-to-understand book about interesting science advances that is not too simple based on his life and discoveries: Theory of Relativity, Cosmology and Quantum Theory”

“Why is “lack of imagination” called “communication skills”?: Japanese-specific”negative” communication”

The quotes used in this article are based on notes taken at the movie theater from movies in Japanese and are not direct quotes from the foreign language original movies, even if they exist.

The Movie “Dancer in the Dark” that I Only Knew was a Masterpiece was an Incredible Work.

I started watching movies about 8 years ago, exclusively at movie theaters. Prior to that, I had very few opportunities to watch movies, so I hadn’t watched any of the so-called “masterpieces.” I have my own reasons for “watching movies at the theater,” so unless past masterpieces are theatrically released, I have no opportunity to watch them.

So when I heard that the movie “Dancer in the Dark” was being released in theaters, I thought I had to watch it. According to the official website, the screening rights in Japan ended in June 2022, so it was the last chance for me to watch it.

There was limited information I knew before watching the movie. Only that it was a “masterpiece in film history” and that it was a “disgusting work.” Also, I imagined it was a story about a blind dancer from the title.

I wasn’t surprised that it was a “disgusting work,” but I still think that if I had watched this movie without any prior information, I would have received a shocking impact. I once again felt that there is no way to encounter such masterpieces without knowing the fact that they are “masterpieces.”

First, an Introduction to the Content

Selma, who suffers from a disease where her vision gradually deteriorates, is raising her only son as a single mother. Despite her significantly weakened vision, she works in a factory that involves dangerous tasks to save as much money as possible. Selma’s illness is hereditary and has been passed on to her son Gene, who is still unaware of the fact. Selma intends to have Gene undergo surgery after he turns 13 to deal with the disease. She is desperately trying to save money by lying and saying she is “sending money to her husband in the Czech Republic.”

Selma and Gene live in a trailer house located on the property of a couple named Bill and Linda. While Selma is at work, Bill and Linda take care of Gene, so she can rest assured. She also receives help from her close friend Kathy, who is older and works at the same factory.

Selma has not informed anyone at the factory that she “cannot see.” Although there are many tasks where mistakes could lead to injury, Selma pretends to be able to see. Likewise, she has not told people around her in the rehearsal hall of the musical that she lives for about that. Although there are various obstacles in her work and practice, she is struggling to get by while trying to cover it up.

One day, Selma was told a surprising story by Bill. She thought of Bill as a “wealthy person who received a large inheritance,” but in reality, his wife Linda is a spendthrift, and their house is currently being seized by the bank. Selma revealed one of her own secrets after hearing about Bill’s troubles, but…

I was Surprised about Various Things, But What Surprised Me the Most was that it was a “Musical Film”

The first thing that surprised me was that the filming was done in a documentary-like style. The cut was clearly fiction, but the shaky footage taken with a handheld camera was very documentary-like and made the realism of the work stand out. Actually, at first I even wondered, “I thought it was fiction, but was ‘Dancer in the Dark’ actually a documentary?” If I know that Björk, the world-famous singer, played Selma in the starring role, I wouldn’t have such a misunderstanding, but I had no idea that “Selma was played by Björk” or that “Björk is a world-famous diva,” so I had a momentary thought that it might be a documentary. I think it’s a very realistic movie.

In addition, for a while after the movie started, I thought Selma and Gene were siblings, so I was really surprised when I found out that Selma was actually his mother. When I looked it up on the internet after watching the movie, it seems that Björk during the filming of this movie was in her early 30s. I thought she was much younger.

But above all, what surprised me the most was that “Dancer in the Dark” was a musical film. I only knew that it was a “disgusting movie,” so I never imagined that it was a “musical film.”

I’m not good at musical movies to begin with. I watched the highly acclaimed movie “La La Land”, but I couldn’t accept the sudden scenes where actors sing and dance, so I couldn’t like it. I can’t feel the necessity of singing and dancing, and I don’t have the sense that “singing and dancing convey emotions more strongly”, so musical movies inevitably become “unacceptable things” for me.

However, I was able to accept musical scenes in “Dancer in the Dark”. The reason is that I felt the necessity of singing and dancing. I think it brings the effect of “emphasizing Selma’s ‘harsh reality’ by singing and dancing happily”.

Selma is always in a difficult situation. As mentioned earlier, she is a single mother, knows that she will go blind, and her son is also found to have the same disease. She has to work hard to save her son, but she feels sorry for making Gene feel lonely because of that. A man who has feelings for Selma appears, but he decides not to indulge in love. Also, not telling people that her eyesight is deteriorating causes various inconveniences.

If you are forced to live like Selma, anyone would feel “I can’t take it anymore”.

Selma’s only escape from reality is to fantasize, which are portrayed as the “musical scenes” in this movie.

The more enjoyable Selma’s “fantasy world” is, the more her “hardship” in reality stands out. In fact, should we say that the more difficult reality is, the more enjoyable Selma’s “fantasy world” becomes?

The reason why I cannot accept musical movies is that I do not understand the meaning of singing and dancing. However, in the case of “Dancer in the Dark”, the more enjoyable the singing and dancing are, the more paradoxically Selma’s “suffering” stands out. I felt that this composition was very effective in portraying the life of a woman named Selma. It’s not just about dancing cheerfully, but rather the earnestness that “I can’t bear it unless I make the characters in my fantasy world dance happily” is what seeps through in that scene.

In addition, Selma, who is also participating in the musical rehearsals, talks about why she likes musicals, saying

Nothing bad happens in a musical.

I’m the type of person who wants bad things to happen in a story, so that’s why it’s hard for me to accept musicals. However, in the case of “Dancer in the Dark,” the depiction of “having no choice but to escape to a world of musicals where nothing bad happens” is incorporated, so I didn’t feel any disgust and even felt that it was a “necessary element.”

The use of “musical scenes” was very effective and I thought it was great.

I Dislike the Phrase “Mother’s Love,” But I Think the Love that Selma Shows to Her Son is Wonderful

I dislike the phrase “mother’s love.

It’s not because I think it’s obvious that a mother would love her child. Rather, it’s because I believe that there must be mothers who can’t love their children.

So, I just can’t like the trend of excessively praising “a mother’s love”. It’s a discourse that praises “loving mothers” while stigmatizing “mothers who struggle to love” as “unqualified”. It is very bewildering.

Whether you hold affection for your child or not, as long as you’re “raising your child safely”, you should have fulfilled your role as a parent more than enough. By talking about things like “a mother’s love”, won’t parenting become more difficult and society more tense?

On the other hand, there are times when I come across a love that is so exceptional that I can only describe it as “a mother’s love”. It’s not the pushy “mother’s love” that insists that “as a mother, you should show this much love to your child,” but rather the kind of “mother’s love” that makes you feel “no one can give this much love.”

And to me, Selma embodies that kind of “mother’s love”. Her way of life is nothing short of “amazing”.

On the other hand, I also struggle with whether it’s okay to praise Selma’s way of life.

This movie goes towards a finale that can only be described as “the worst of the worst,” but I want to believe that there was ample possibility to avoid such a future. In other words, I think that Selma’s life became distorted because she tried to give “too much love.” If Selma hadn’t aimed for the “very best,” could the “worst” ending have been avoided? That’s how I feel.

Of course, I’m not saying that Selma is to blame. It’s all the fault of the people around Selma. That’s why I feel indignant and disgusted.

Everyone should have the right to live a peaceful and fulfilling life. And that’s why I also think that people like Selma should be rewarded. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. I often feel despair at this kind of reality.


In the movie, Selma is portrayed as a “strong woman who struggles as if she doesn’t care that she is blind,” but after the “event that drags Selma into the worst possible situation,” her portrayal changes to that of a “woman who seems like she could be crushed by despair.” However, there is a clear sense in her that says, “It doesn’t matter what happens to me…” That’s why, even in the latter half when Selma seems like she’s being crushed by despair, we can still sense her “strength” from the way she lives.

Now, I understand that it has a meta-role of “bringing the story to a close,” but I still feel irritated by the “crudeness” of the latter half of the development surrounding “2056 dollars and 10 cents.” Not towards the movie, but towards the characters. I can understand that they have to create such an “irritating” development in order to put a period on the story, but even with that understanding, I still get frustrated by the “insensitivity” of those around Selma.

As every possible “worst case” hits and Selma hits rock bottom, I felt a heart-wrenching sadness from the way she behaved bravely without losing her will even in the face of such “insensitivity.”

I’ll repeat myself, but I really hope that society rewards people like Selma, and if there is something I can do to make such a society, I want to do it.

Published Kindle books(Free on Kindle Unlimited)

“The genius Einstein: An easy-to-understand book about interesting science advances that is not too simple based on his life and discoveries: Theory of Relativity, Cosmology and Quantum Theory”

“Why is “lack of imagination” called “communication skills”?: Japanese-specific”negative” communication”

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