Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Europa, the third film in Lars von Trier’s E-trilogy. The first two films in the trilogy were The Element of Crime and Epidemic.

The Element of Crime is one of von Trier’s greatest films. The sepia tones and hushed dialogue create a dream-like, surreal landscape. Many scenes from the film remind me of Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books and The Cook, Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. Also, the tone of The Element of Crime reminds me very much of my favorite novel, Justine by Lawrence Durrell. I would love to see the novel played out in the same mood and setting as The Element of Crime.

Epidemic is my least favorite von Trier film. I have seen the film once. Enjoyed the purpose and the playfulness. But, in the end, the film requires too much of its audience. This sounds lazy, but it is far from lazy. The film is metafilm. The images are messy. The story is scattered. It is a lot to take on. Saying a von Trier film is his worst is by no means demeaning the film. To be the worst of a von Trier is still to be above many.

Europa is closest to The Element of Crime. The film is dream-like. The film noir element is very much present. In fact, Europa takes the noir classic to another extreme. Europa is almost a caricature of old fashioned noir. On the other hand, Europa is about classic films in general. Many would say elements of Hitchcock are at play throughout Europa. Notorious comes to mind first. But, Strangers on a Train and Vertigo could easily top the list of references.

The film is mostly in black and white. Although, from time to time, von Trier uses a splash of color. At times, this plays out beautifully (blood droplets falling from a wrist and into the murky water of a sink) and is not the least bit distracting. Other times, the color images in the foreground and the black and white in the background, too distracting. But, I’d like to add this film about the end of WWII shot in black and white with splashes of color came before Schindler’s List.

von Trier filmed the movie on levels. First, he filmed the background for the whole movie. Then he filmed different levels of foreground. At times, one can find four to six levels on the screen. This adds for a dizzying effect at times. Or, it can take away from the film. But, overall, the use of these layers adds to the dream state of the film.

I wouldn’t call this my favorite von Trier film, but I would place it somewhere in the middle. It is nice to see the beginnings of a film great.


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