Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
Original title: Forbrydelsens Element
Denmark, 1984. Det Danske Filminstitut, Per Holst Filmproduktion. Screenplay by Niels Vorsel, Dialogue translation by William Quarshie, Stephen Wakelam. Cinematography by Tom Elling. Produced by Per Holst. Music by Bo Holten. Production Design by Peter Hoimark. Costume Design by Manon Rasmussen. Film Editing by Tómas Gislason. Cannes Film Festival 1984.
You’ve rarely seen a more visually intoxicating film than this feature debut by Lars von Trier, but his aesthetic powers are undone by a scattered plot that only touches on the fringes of comprehensibility for two hours. A former police officer (Michael Elphick) goes under deep hypnosis while visiting a doctor in Cairo, regressing to a post-apocalyptic Europe where he is on the hunt for a serial killer murdering girls who sell lottery tickets. As the officer wanders a barren landscape ravaged by nuclear devastation, he drifts in and out of hallucinatory revelations about his society and the people around him, occasionally putting in the effort to actually solve the case. While the cinematography is brilliantly effective and creates a totally original vision of sci-fi/noir unlike anything ever put on screen, the story will wear you out quickly. Von Trier appears in a cameo role, while the rest of the cast includes British veteran Esmond Knight and Ordet‘s Preben Lerdorff Rye.