Dancer in the Dark: Deploying the Siren, Impairing the Sight

  • Ahmed Elbeshlawy


Chapter  4 looks at Dancer in the Dark as a near-perfect conspiracy against the act of film watching itself. The heroine, Selma, is not just a blind sacrificial mother who is suffering passively and rejecting one man’s love unrealistically. She is also that impossible female character who is, in many ways, un-cinematic. Dancer in the Dark can be thought of as von Trier’s extreme example of deploying the Lacanian objet a in the field of the visible as the blind heroine herself is the occasional deployment of the gaze. Selma, however, destabilizes the viewer’s position not only by her blind eyes, which are supposed to look and do not see, yet seem to see beyond simple looking, but also by her droning voice, which literally makes von Trier’s film hardly anything but a celebration of the idea of the survival of the song—that most primitive art—even in the midst of the most philosophically oriented postmodern politicized cinema of technical prowess mixed with deliberate stylistic playfulness. To enjoy Dancer in the Dark is to know how not to watch it as a cinematic work but to feel it as work only or as a process that does not look forward to an end, or as something that never dies except by the very death of the subject; in other words, as something resembling the subject’s libido in its insistent survival as a vital substance, as a force of nature that, essentially, has neither eyes to see nor image to be seen.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Ahmed Elbeshlawy
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Professional and Continuing EducationHong Kong UniversityHong KongHong Kong

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