Summary: Selma is an Eastern European woman who has come to America in the hopes of living the American dream. What she finds is the complete opposite though, and upon discovering that her only hope remaining is to give her son that dream she imagined. Kathy becomes her close friend at the factory they both work at, and a man, Jeff, begins to fall for Selma. Selma though is very focused on her love for musicals though, and garnering enough money to medically help her son with a problem she keeps secret in order to not ruin her job. When a neighbor threatens to destroy her plans her life begins to spiral downward.
Acting: Bjork is the lead as Selma, and while very odd, she plays the part fittingly. Her vocals also work for all the musical aspects of the movie. It's soaring and conveys the inner American dream that the woman longs for yet her life is reflecting the struggles of transitioning that are further crippled by the problems of finances. Catherine Deneuve is Kathy, the woman that befriends Selma. Kathy might end up being one of the most normal characters in the movie. Selma seems to live in a world inside her head making her difficult to connect with. David Morse is playing a good role as the sort of bad guy here, Bill, the neighbor who is threatening the dream that Selma is building. Peter Stormare most brings to mind his role in Fargo, and in this movie he plays a more likable character, but still very odd guy, as Jeff. Jeff seems socially inept, but instead of being the bad guy he is instead a guy reaching out to connect to Selma.
Filming: Lars Von Trier has created a signature style of filming here that he has kept with. There are lots of shaky cameras, and natural colors that give his movies a raw vibe that puts us more in the real world. I liked his usage of color though to show how we were transitioning to one of Selma's fantasy musical moments though. The contrast would become sharper between the colors, and it reflected well the perception of what was happening in the real world verse what was happening inside her mind. It was also incredibly sad that this woman had based her idea of America on Fred Astaire movies, and found something she was trying to escape from.
Plot: I loved the moments in the plot where you got character interaction. For some the stronger moments might be the way the musical moments are woven in, but the moments in the prison and between the factory workers were the highlights for me. The way the characters interact feels natural, and I think this is made stronger by how the movie is shot with more of a raw vibe. Even with characters who seem as socially kept to themselves as Jeff you could still felt how he felt toward Selma. The plot is really bleak and dark though, but I didn't expect that to be different after prior movies from from Trier.
If you're a fan of musicals then this is a venture to take as it's very different, and I didn't even know it was one until about forty minutes into the movie. The acting is also strong, and it's a rare look into Bjork's acting since she rarely gets in on film projects. The movie is really long though, but the story takes so many turns that it keeps you compelled. It's just not one that will sit easy once it's over.
Rating 7.5 of 10.