A Star Is Björk

Lars von Trier delivers the Icelandic pop icon as a simple and tragic Dancer in the Dark

Established as a global superstar of cinema (with the Palme d'Or for this mess indicating that the French are sometimes a few slices short of a baguette), von Trier is a master of provocation, but he's often a weakling in terms of substance, throwing ugly tantrums rather than romancing us with ingenious miseries. The whole Dogme 95 manifesto (coscripted with Thomas Vinterberg, who has, with The Celebration, put it to better use) is already starting to seem like a hackneyed distraction rather than the divining rod of purity it should have been. If von Trier were to put down the multiple Panasonics and pick up a Panavision, we might get a chance to experience more of his vision. As Björk said in a press conference: “Most of the world is driven by the eye; they design cities to look great, but they sound terrible.” In like fashion von Trier designs his works to scratch our souls (and, sometimes, as in Breaking the Waves or The Kingdom and its sequel, they leave lasting scars), but without a crackling ghost story or a powerful actor like Emily Watson, his work starts to feel bloated, self-important, and boring.

There are other arguments available, of course -- that von Trier has sculpted Dancer in the Dark as a modern fable, that it weighs in on the plight of the eternal feminine in the crushing post-industrial age -- but such theorizing seems far too lofty for the cheap, grungy tragedy von Trier has spewed forth this time.

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