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


  • Pascal Rudolph University of Potsdam


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


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.



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