Return to tiff.’s home page

Canadian Film Encyclopedia

Shopping Cart

Dancing in the Dark

Year: 1986
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 98 min
Director: Leon Marr
Producer: Anthony Kramreither
Writer: Leon Marr
Cinematographer: Vic Sarin
Editor: Tom Berner
Sound: Urmas Rosin
Cast: Richard Monette, Rosemary Dunsmore, Neil Munro, Martha Henry
Production Company: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Film House Group, Film Arts, Brightstar Films

This grim tale of domestic failure stars Martha Henry as Edna Cormick, a devoted housewife who has spent 20 years establishing a safe and comfortable life. Equating her own fulfillment with the unwavering satisfaction of her career-driven husband, Harry (Munro), Edna has sacrificed her desires and needs to the impossible dream of permanent and total domestic bliss.

Despite her obsessive dedication to their home — Edna’s life consists of daily “preparing-for and cleaning-up-after” household rituals — their tranquil existence is undone with a single phone call. Oblivious to the seeds of tragedy sown by her own self-delusion, Edna is ill equipped to deal with the gathering evidence of her husband’s infidelity. Following a harrowing act of revenge, Edna scrutinizes her life from a hospital room, searching endlessly for the fatal flaw to explain Harry’s betrayal. It leads not only to the collapse of her dust-free dream fortress but her veil of sanity.

Hailed upon its release as the most impressive and assured feature film debut by an English-Canadian director in many years, Leon Marr’s Dancing in the Dark was praised for several reasons. It is a sensitive and faithful adaptation of a difficult literary source, the Joan Barfoot novel of the same name, and it sustains a credible female point of view — with an abundance of empathy and a minimum of melodrama — which made it exceptional both because its director is male and because it avoided the artificial catharsis of Hollywood-style dramas of its day. Finally, Henry’s performance is electrifying as Edna, a woman whose dreams have shattered into more pieces than she can pick up.

Related Entries