Björk on the Gallows: Performance, Persona, and Authenticity in Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark

Pascal Rudolph

Abstract


In Dancer in the Dark (2000), Icelandic popstar Björk portrays the main character of Selma. Lars von Trier, the director, described his film as an exercise in emotionally manipulating the audience. Drawing on Philip Auslander’s concept of the “musical persona,” this study argues that the decision to cast a popstar, in combination with the structure of the film, serves von Trier’s purpose of intensifying the film’s manipulative potential, by evoking an impression of shocking realism or authenticity. This study furthermore places the presentation of the filmic character in conversation with Björk’s popstar status, critical reception of the film, as well as reception of her performance within it. Extending Auslander’s concept of persona through a transmedial approach provides new perspectives on Björk’s performance, Dancer’s polarized reception, and analytical models for performers’ public reception.

Keywords


Popstars in Film; Musical Persona; Transmedia; Björk; Dancer in the Dark; Lars von Trier.

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References


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Discography

Betty Hutton. 1951. “It’s Oh So Quiet,” Murder, He Says, RCA.

Björk. –

Björk, Fálkinn Records.

Debut, One Little Indian Records.

Selmasongs: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack “Dancer in the Dark,” One Little Indian Records.

Vespertine, One Little Indian Records.

Horst Winter. 1948. “Und jetzt ist es still,” Austroton.

Videography

Films

Breaking the Waves. 1996. Dir. Lars von Trier, Trust Film et al.

Dancer in the Dark. 2000. Dir. Lars von Trier, Zentropa et al.

Drawing Restraint 9. 2005. Dir. Matthew Barney, Restraint LLC.

Glerbrot. 1987. Dir. Kristín Jóhannesdóttir, Rúv.

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. 1964. Dir. Jacques Demy, Parc Film et al.

The Juniper Tree. 1990. Dir. Nietzchka Keene, Rhino.

Music Videos

Hidden Place. 2001. Björk. Dir. Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, One Little Indian Records.

It’s Oh So Quiet. 1995. Björk. Dir. Spike Jonze, One Little Indian Records.

DVDs

Dancer in the Dark. 2000. Dir. Lars von Trier. DVD. Zentropa et al., 2001.

The Work of Director Spike Jonze. A Collection of Music Videos, Short Films, Documentaries, and Rarities. 2003. Dir. Spike Jonze. DVD. Palm Pictures.




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