Dancer in the Dark is an example of what it looks like when a filmmaker tries to appease financial backers. We got half our budget from anti-capital punishment people. Their only demand was to see a gut-wrenching execution scene. The other half came from NASA. They wanted me to hire an alien as my lead actor because if you’re gonna debut something for the history books, one of those books might as well be Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert. I said yes to both, cashed the checks, and proceeded towards the single worst directing experience of my life.
It’s all the alien’s fault. She must have come from Planet Asshole cause she showed no respect for my script whatsoever. Her “acting” ended up being nothing more than a mean spirited impression of humans. Apparently aliens think we’re all retarded children. Day after day, the normal character I had written became more of a random stupidity hodgepodge. Not only that, but it was an innocent stupidity, which made the horrible execution I HAD to show increasingly difficult to fathom. Everyday I had to rewrite the script, trying to get her to death row while also adapting to the changes she fucking “improvised”.
Why didn’t I put a stop to this? Why couldn’t I just put that alien in her place? Mind control. Fucking aliens, man. NOT FAIR!
See, there’s this sadness line. You don’t want to cross the sadness line unless you’re Oscar-baiting. The plot of Dancer in the Dark was plenty sad by itself. But when the events are suffered by a seemingly retarded person, it crosses the sadness line so far that it circles the world and crosses it again. And again. And maybe one more time. The alien did not understand this. Every time we argued about it, she’d start singing alien songs. David Morse had his dog on set once. The poor thing’s head exploded. Her singing was so out of this world bad, it turned all our coffee into decaf.
Because she took over my body and used me as a conduit to edit the film herself, and because I’m still really pissed off about it, I’ve never actually seen Dancer in the Dark. I’ll try to explain the plot as I remember it from the set and you can tell me how close I got. And whether it makes any goddamn sense.
So there’s this lady who has degenerate illness that makes her an idiot child. She has a son. He’s not an idiot child yet, but she’s afraid he will be once puberty hits. All she wants in the world is to get him a pair of Ray Bans because her idiot child intellect thinks cool sunglasses are his only chance at being normal. But the whole point of Ray Bans is that they are a class-dividing amount of expensive. So she works seventy hours a week in an ACME bomb factory saving every penny she can. This little plan might have worked, except her neighbor and landlord happens to be Satan Jr.
Satan Jr.’s main problem is his wife. She takes all his money and spends it at IKEA and he gets fucking bored waiting five or six hours for her to finish looking at spatulas and asymmetrical spoons. He tells the idiot child his problems over a shared cup of coffee. In the spirit of friendship, she spills her problems as well. His ears perk up when he hears of her massive Ray Ban fund. “Tell you what,” he says. “I have a pair of Oakleys. Why don’t you just buy them off me?” She says no. “Well then,” he frowns. “I guess I’d better kill myself. Could you do it for me? I’m a scaredy cat.” She says no. He stabs himself in the arm. “C’mon. Look! I got it started.” She says no. So he shoots himself in the other arm. “How about now? I’m pretty much there already.” She says no. So he starts slamming his head on the desk, saying “please” right before each hit, kind of like a broken record. Before she can say no again, he’s dead. The idiot child (who at this point has become more of an almost-retard) freaks out and tries to bring him back to life by singing a half-english half-elfish song. It doesn’t work because the song pisses off God.
The wife comes home and calls some fancy-pants CSI cop to figure out who tortured and killed her IKEA fund. The cop sniffs around the room for a second, then takes off his glasses. “Smells like almost-retard.” He looks at the wife and takes off his glasses. “Ma’am, was your husband an almost-retard?”
“No,” she says. “He loved IKEA.”
The cop grabs his radio and takes off his glasses. “Put out an APB for an almost-retard. And if anyone has time, pick me up another pair of glasses.”
A million cops go looking, but it’s the cop on the glasses run who ends up catching her. They put the cuffs on right as she passes some brand new Ray Bans to her son. In grief, she sings until her song is abruptly ended via nightstick.
When she wakes up again, she’s on trial for murdering Satan Jr. I’d like to point out again that I was contractually obligated to provide an execution. Therefore, the almost-retard refuses to defend herself in any way whatsoever. It’s not strength or even impending retardation that keeps her silent, it’s solid plot. Sorry for being so cheap, but I didn’t have any creative energy left by this point.
So despite the fact that she could have easily gotten herself off the hook, the now full-on tard is sentenced to hang for a crime she did not commit. Because she is considered very pathetic, they decide to get it over with immediately. The court room is quickly transformed into a gallows, and the full-on is led blindfolded to the noose. Right before she drops, her kid’s babysitter runs up and hands her the pair of Ray Bans. “Here,” she whispers. “He doesn’t want them. He says no one wears Ray Bans anymore and that he’d rather have a pair of Oakleys.” This makes her so sad that she starts singing again, and they hurry an already rushed job just to put everyone else out of her misery. Thanks to this lack of care, the noose is botched and her head gets yanked off. I called cut, went home, and had sex with twins.
Looking back, I’m not sure what the initial purpose of Dancer in the Dark was. I guess there wasn’t one, except to make you really sad for no reason whatsoever. Five million dollars wanted this, five million dollar wanted that. I did my best to make it happen. That’s my job. It’s up to you whether you like it or not. And if you do, I’ve got some land on Mars I’d like to sell you.