The Element of Crime (1984)

600full-the-element-of-crime-posterLARS VON TRIER’S ambition gets the best of him in this muddling exercise in arthouse ambiguity, but ‘The Element of Crime’ is still an unmistakable and unforgettable experience. Its protagonist is a hypnotized ex(?)-cop, narrating an increasingly nonsensical mystery in a vocal fry monotone. Its color palate is sickly and overwhelming, mixing the burnt orange of the sun and the faded red of blood in water. Its Europe is a flooded purgatory, perpetually dark in the shadow of Alex DeLarge, existing in ‘half’ states and cities between 40s California noir and 70s Vietnam psychedelia. Its plot, so doggedly pursued, is arbitrary. Its atmosphere is absolute. If Von Trier had directed ‘Sin City’, it would have been a gripping, visceral gauntlet instead of an exhibition. But no one was probably ready for that. At almost 30 years later (shocking), we may still not be ready for ‘The Element of Crime’.

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