Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Alternate title: Zentropa
Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany/Switzerland, 1991. Alicéléo, Coproduction Office, Det Danske Filminstitut, Eurimages, Fortuna Film, Fund of the Council of Europe, Gérard Mital Productions, Institut suisse du film, Nordisk Film, Sofinergie 1, Sofinergie 2, Svenska Filminstitutet, Union Generale Cinematographique, WMG Film. Screenplay by Lars Von Trier, Niels Vorsel. Cinematography by Henning Bendtsen, Edward Klosinski, Jean-Paul Meurisse. Produced by Bo Christensen, Peter Aalbæk Jensen. Music by Joachim Holbek. Production Design by Henning Bahs, Andrzej Borecki. Costume Design by Manon Rasmussen. Film Editing by Herve Schneid.
Gorgeous, visionary tale from Lars Von Trier set in postwar Germany. German-descended, American-born Jean-Marc Barr shows up in his father’s destroyed country and, thanks to the connection with his conductor uncle, gets a job working for the Zentropa train line. While on the job he makes the acquaintance of American officers who put him wise to the threat of partisan fighters, and falls in love with the daughter of the family who own Zentropa (Barbara Sukowa). As the dreamlike experiences on the train, narrated so sardonically by Max von Sydow, continue, however, Barr begins to suspect that he is being used to help entrap political fighters whose cause he is beginning to feel sympathy for. Moving back and forth between hard-hitting imagery and whimsical expressionism, the odd shots of full-colour amid the smoky black and white only add to the beauty and depth of an experience that is never pretentious or difficult. The only drawback is Barr himself, who isn’t up to the challenge of the role when it comes time for him to really get lit up, while Sukowa’s glamor overrides him completely with her mystical appeal. The original title was changed to Zentropa after Agnieszka Holland’s Europa Europa was released around the same time.
The Criterion Collection: #454
Cannes Film Festival Award: Jury Prize
European Film Award Nominations: Best European Actress (Barbara Sukowa); Best European Supporting Actor (Ernst-Hugo Järegård)