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Dancer in the Dark (2000) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • 1964 in small town Washington state. Selma Jezková, a Czechoslovakian immigrant, and her preteen son Gene live in a rented trailer owned by and on the property of married Bill and Linda Houston, he the town sheriff. Beyond Bill and Linda, Selma has a small group of friends who look out for her, including her primary confidante, Kathy, with who she works, and Jeff who wants to be her boyfriend. Jeff regularly waits outside Selma's workplace long before the end of her shift to drive her home, despite she always refusing in not wanting to lead him on. Her primary job is working on the Anderson Tool factory assembly line, but she does whatever she can to earn money. What only Kathy knows among Selma's friends is that she is slowly going blind, her medical condition being genetic. Selma is barely able to see, just enough to do her job. Her primary reason for moving to the US and for working all the time is to earn enough money for an operation for Gene when he turns thirteen, he who doesn't know anything about his mother or his own degenerative eyesight. None of Selma's friends, not even Kathy, know about the money for Gene's operation. Beyond this sole goal of the operation, Selma allows only one indulgence in her life, anything having to do with musicals, which she loves, it an escape from the problems of her life. Kathy often takes her to the cinema to watch old musicals, Kathy who has to describe to Selma what is happening on the screen much to the other patrons' chagrin. Selma also has the lead of Maria in a community theater production of "The Sound of Music". Close to having enough money for the operation, Selma is in a race against time before she loses enough of her sight not to be able to work or participate in the musical production. What may also threaten Selma's goal of the operation for Gene is some financial problems facing Bill. He feels pressured to provide Linda with the comforts of life to which she is accustomed that he believes she requires in their marriage to be satisfied, and as such he is reluctant to tell Linda of those financial problems.

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  • Selma has emigrated with her son from Central Europe to America. The year is 1964. Selma works day and night to save her son from the same disease she suffers from, a disease that inevitably will make her blind. But Selma has the energy to live because of her secret! She loves musicals. When life feels tough she can pretend that she is in the wonderful world of musicals...just for a short moment. All happiness life is not able to give her she finds there...

  • Selma is a Czechoslovakian immigrant, a single mother working in a factory in rural America. Her salvation is her passion for music, specifically, the all-singing, all-dancing numbers found in classic Hollywood musicals. Selma harbors a sad secret: she is losing her eyesight and her son Gene stands to suffer the same fate if she can't put away enough money to secure him an operation. When a desperate neighbor falsely accuses Selma of stealing his savings, the drama of her life escalates to a tragic finale.

  • An east European girl goes to America with her young son, expecting it to be like a Hollywood film.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Selma is a young Czech mother living in Washington state in the early 1960s. How she loves musicals! Alas, she is going blind, and this is threatening her job (not to say her limbs) at the local factory, where she is friends with Cathy, who is a bit flummoxed by Selma's increasing workload, which includes pinning hairpins to unbent cardboard as a side job.

    Selma lives with her understandably ungrateful 12-year-old delinquent son in a mobile trailer on the property of a local sheriff and his happy-go-lucky wife. One day, the sheriff reveals a dark secret to Selma, and being the type to cement friendships, she tells him a secret, too: that she is going blind. Life spirals downard for her after this revelation, but Selma is resolute in protecting her friend's secret.

    Cathy, who grows increasingly frustrated with Selma's decisions, comes to realize Selma's methodology was right after all, and in the gripping final moments of the film, she tells Selma that she did right.

    This is a curious, highly depressing, yet exhilarating film (with various experimental camera techniques) about the power of friendship and maternal love -- not to be watched alone!

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