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Crime and Punishment in Lars Von Trier’s ‘Dancer in the Dark’

Crime and Punishment in Lars Von Trier’s ‘Dancer in the Dark’ (photo)

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If there ever was a film to live up to the cliche, Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. As a proponent of the Dogman95 movement, von Trier strives to rid his films of everything jaded and phony about contemporary cinema. While the film is certainly stylized, the hand held camera used to create the film lends a certain realism that makes it even more wrenching.

Icelandic musician and artist, Bjork, makes her film debut as Selma, a Czech emigre working in a dreary pressing plant to support her young son, Gene. The few bright spots in her otherwise dull life are her son, her friendship with Kathy (Catherine Deneuve), her seemingly infatuated co-worker Jeff (Peter Stomare), and the fact that she has landed the role of Maria in the local production of The Sound of Music. But Selma has a secret passion for the music of everyday life that comes out in the film in imaginary scenes that create a modern-day musical out of ordinary objects.

Selma is a simple-minded yet stubborn woman, similar in many ways to Emily Watson’s “Bess” in von Trier’s Breaking the Waves. And, much like Bess, tragedy soon befalls Selma. Selma and her son suffer from a condition that is slowly rendering them blind. She works non-stop to raise the necessary funds for an operation that will save her son’s eyesight. When the money she has squirreled away disappears, the resulting tide of tragedy upon tragedy begins to overwhelm the once stubbornly optimistic Selma.

You will never cry so much at a movie (seriously, we’re talking wet shirt amount of tears), but von Trier’s relentless realism makes something beautifully compelling about the tragedy. It is heartbreaking, but you can’t look away.

Here is one of the musical numbers, “I Have Seen it All”, written and performed by Bjork:

‘Dancer in the Dark’ airs on IFC at 11 a.m. ET and on Sept 21 at 6:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. ET

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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