Lars Von Trier's Dancer In the Dark not only divided the critics, with some jeering and some cheering at its Cannes premiere, but is getting a radically different reception in major world territories, bombing in some while cleaning up in others, notably Japan.
Last week, its fourth on release, Dancer In The Dark was finally able to grab the number one position at the box office in the nine major Japanese cities, beating out Vertical Limit, Dinosaur and Thirteen Days. The Cannes Palme d'Or winner took $833,209 (Y96,652,300) from 14 screens, providing an astonishing screen average of $59,514. The film, which had previously to settle for third and fourth positions since its opening on December 23, has seen continuously strong receipts. Dropping just 7% from the previous week its total gross now stands at $3,637,919 in the key nine cities and is predicted to reach as high as $25.9m (Y3bn) across the whole of Japan, by distributor Shochiku.
This success, insists publicist Reiko Sato, is not a total surprise to the company executives who purchased Dancer In The Dark at Cannes, before it won the Palme d'Or: "We felt from the beginning that this film could do well with a general audience." The story of a mother sacrificing herself for her daughter has played especially well with Japanese women. "This kind of story suits the Japanese mentality, it's easy for audiences here to understand," she explained. Shochiku also targeted women in their twenties and thirties with stories about the film in leading entertainment and women's magazines.
The film's star, Bjork, also has a large Japanese fan base for her music. "Universal International released the soundtrack CD at the end of August and it became a hit, giving us several months of free publicity," commented Sato.