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Lars von Trier's stunning debut film is the story of Fisher, an exiled ex-cop who returns to his old beat to catch a serial killer with a taste for young girls. Influenced equally by Hitchcock and science fiction, von Trier (Zentropa, Breaking the Waves, The Idiots) boldly reinvents expressionist style for his own cinematic vision of a post-apocalyptic world. Shot in shades of sepia, with occasional, startling flashes of bright blue, The Element of Crime (Forbrydelsens Element) combines dark mystery and operatic sweep to yield a pure celluloid nightmare.
It may prove confounding to anyone expecting a more conventional narrative, but The Element of Crime--the debut feature of Danish visionary Lars von Trier--marks the arrival of an audaciously original talent; the film is deeply personal in its inspirations yet richly informed by a pure love of cinema. Approaching a hard-boiled detective plot from a hypnotically subconscious perspective (thus establishing the tone he would echo in his later films Epidemic and Europa), von Trier presents a murder case solved from the inside out. Which is to say, the plot unfolds as recollected under hypnosis by Fisher (Michael Elphick), the grizzled cop who investigates the case.
This framework is arguably beside the point; it's merely von Trier's way of entering a post-apocalyptic world of his own making, flooded and decaying, and filmed entirely in an amber-tinted tone punctuated only by blue police lights and sickly green fluorescents. By following principles of crime solving conceived by his mentor (played by British film veteran Esmond Knight), Fisher closes in on an awful revelation that spins The Element of Crime into another psychological dimension. Multilayered, deliberately paced, and atmospheric in the extreme (which less appreciative viewers may find intolerable), The Element of Crime elicits a dream state that is simultaneously oppressive and visually unforgettable, crammed with symbolic subtleties and cinematic references that can only be fully absorbed over multiple viewings. To say the least, this is a film that grows on you. --Jeff Shannon
I wanted to watch a murder mystery, I got this instead. The real "Crime" is the one committed by the director of this boring, hard to watch jumble of a movie. Read morePublished on April 27 2004 by H. A Huffman
This movie should only be seen on a high definiton TV or a PC. Video transfer is amazing! It's not that faces are just clearly seen, it's the colors that amaze me. Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2003 by hihuy
One of the worst movies I have ever seen. I seldom take a movie out of my DVD player without seeing the end...This was one of themPublished on Sept. 29 2002 by Volkan Dincer
Lars von Trier's debut film may be a bit arty for some but can be quite fullfiling if you have the patience. Read morePublished on Sept. 22 2002 by sebastian hope
Watch this DVD on a good television with a good sound system turned up loud and you'll never be the same. Read morePublished on June 6 2002 by Eric Schiller
VERY SLOW pace and sparce dialog. If you're really into into Lynchian styled movies it's worth a rent. Read morePublished on March 8 2002
Lars von Trier made this film, his first, before his masterpiece, "Zentropa" (known as "Europa" also). Read morePublished on July 1 2001 by carol irvin