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The Element of Crime (1984)
"Forbrydelsens element" (original title)

6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 6,273 users  
Reviews: 40 user | 52 critic

A cop in a dystopian Europe investigates a serial killings suspect using controversial methods written by his now disgraced former mentor.

Director:

(as Lars Von Trier)

Writers:

, (dialogue translation), 2 more credits »
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Title: The Element of Crime (1984)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Osborne
Me Me Lai ...
Kim (as Meme Lai)
Jerold Wells ...
Kramer
Ahmed El Shenawi ...
Therapist
Astrid Henning-Jensen ...
House Keeper
János Herskó ...
Coroner (as Janos Hersko)
Stig Larsson ...
Coroner's Assistant
Harry Harper ...
Portier 1
Roman Moszkowicz ...
Portier 2
...
Schmuck of Ages (as Lars Von Trier)
Frederik Casby ...
White Policeman
Duke Addabayo ...
Black Policeman
Jon Bang Carlsen ...
Angry Policeman (as Jon Bang-Carlsen)
Leif Magnusson ...
Hotel Guest
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Storyline

Fisher, an ex-cop, returns to his old beat somewhere in northern Europe after a thirteen-year hiatus in Cairo. His former mentor and role model, author of a treatise called "The Element of Crime", asks him to solve a series of murders involving lottery ticket sellers. Guided by the theories put forth in the book, Fischer retraces the steps of a suspect, Harry Grey, as recorded in a three-year-old police surveillance report. Written by Eddi Sommer <eddi@gmd.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

14 May 1984 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

The Element of Crime  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The first film in Lars von Trier's 'Europa' trilogy which illuminates the traumas of Europe in the future. The two other parts are Epidemic (1987) and Europa (1991). See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Therapist: [to Fisher] Fantasy is OK, but my job to keep you on the right track. We are after the facts. You seem to return to Cairo and me whenever you have a problem. Two months ago you left Cairo, your wife, everything for a police job in Europe. Now you are back haunted by headaches. If you want me to help you get rid of these headaches, we must go back two months in the time. Back to where it all started. All I know... Europe has become an obsession for you.
See more »


Soundtracks

Der Letzte Tourist in Europa
By Mogens Dam, Henrik Blichmann
Translated by Waltraut Andersen
Sung by Sonja Kehler
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User Reviews

 
What kind of world is this?
5 January 2002 | by (Grand Rapids, Michigan) – See all my reviews

Though supposedly taking place somewhere in West Germany, I cannot imagine a world such as this, with the exceptions of perhaps a Mad Max movie, or maybe Waterworld. Water seems to be the dominant element in the film; the entire piece is saturated. In one early scene in police headquarters, our hero, Fisher, visits the archives by climbing a rope down to a flooded basement. He wades in waist high water, searching through damp and waterlogged files encased in plastic baggies. He searches for clues to the elusive Harry Gray. This world has definitely suffered some apocalypse, though details are sketchy.

Finding a long forgotten surveillance report, he tracks the movements of Mr. Gray through the muddy streets and towns. He tries to put himself into the shoes of his prey, perhaps too much so. Who is Harry Gray, anyway? Is there such a person? Will the hunter cross the line and identify too closely with the hunted?

Lars von Trier's directorial debut definitely foreshadows some of his later works. All of the lotto girls bear a striking resemblance to "The Kingdom's" poor Mary Jensen. And much of the camera work is reminiscent of "The Kingdom" and "Europa". Although the film is somewhat slow, especially if you've been bred on a diet of standard American cinema, it's dreamy, somber tone is nothing if not original. Shot entirely in shades of sepia, with startling blasts of blue color that remind you that this is not a black and white film of the Fritz Lang era, you wonder if the entire movie is but a dream, conjured in our protaganist's mind and surfaced under hypnosis. Why is he in Cairo being hypnotized, anyway? Was he the killer all along, murdering the lotto girls and mutilating them with broken bottles? Does he really not remember? And am I the only one who sees the similarity between Harry Gray and "The Usual Suspects'" Kaiser Soze. The classic red herring that leads you... where?

More than likely, you will only see this film if you purchase the Criterion Collection Edition (at least in the USA), or borrow it from someone who has. So, is it worth the fourty bucks to add to your collection? If you are a Michael Bay, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, shoot-em-up action guy, then probably not. But if you enjoy something completely different, then this may well be for you. By the way, the Criterion release includes a documentary about the life and work of von Trier, including some of his first adolescent films shot with his mom's 8mm camera. If you are a fan of "The Kingdom", as I am, or of any of von Trier's works, it may well be worth the asking price for this alone; and you can consider the feature a quirky bonus, showing his singular genius at such an early stage.


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