Dancer in the Dark: Audience Appreciation or Alienation?

| October 20, 2000

Dancer in the Dark: Audience Appreciation or Alienation? Godfrey Cheshire, New York Press
'You'll either love it or hate it!' That seems to be the word on Danish director Lars Von Trier's new film 'Dancer in the Dark,' starring pop sensation Bjork. This certainly was the case when 'Dancer' won the Palme D'Or earlier this year at Cannes: half the audience stood up to applaud and the other half booed. Although he ultimately votes thumbs-down, Godfrey Cheshire, in theNew York Press, offers a thought-provoking analysis of 'Dancer' and the ambivalent reaction it has received. Von Trier's film, he muses, is predicated on the idea of an audience that thinks it is clever and sophisticated but is actually stupid. In 'Dancer,' Von Trier plays with his viewers, endlessly employing clichéd movie conventions with an ironic wink-wink swagger. He says to viewers: 'I know all these dumb, hokey conventions are past redemption. But watch. I'll use them, and I'll still get you.'' In effect, Von Trier holds a mirror up to his audience and dares them to cry, which -- invariably -- they do. Although many critics have declared 'Dancer' a masterpiece, it is perhaps Von Trier's practice of outright audience manipulation that has led to the chorus of boos and rotten tomatoes that have greeted the film. -- Anjula Razdan
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