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

Not Rated  |   |  Crime, Drama, Thriller  |  14 May 1984 (Denmark)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 6,864 users  
Reviews: 43 user | 51 critic

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


(as Lars Von Trier)


, (dialogue translation), 2 more credits »
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12 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Me Me Lai ...
Kim (as Meme Lai)
Jerold Wells ...
Ahmed El Shenawi ...
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


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

14 May 1984 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

The Element of Crime  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


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 »


[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 »


Der Letzte Tourist in Europa
By Mogens Dam, Henrik Blichmann
Translated by Waltraut Andersen
Sung by Sonja Kehler
See more »

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User Reviews

I'm gonna f8ck you back to the stone age.
31 January 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

How to describe a film so avant-garde that Dirk Bogarde threatened to quit the Cannes jury if it got an award? A film that references Blade runner, with a burned-out cop (Michael Elphick) brought back into a futuristic Europe to find a serial killer. A film that has been described by some as "The Silence of the Lambs" meets "Delicatessen".

Fans of David Lynch may thrill at this futuristic film noir. Many will run for the exits, as it takes quite a bit of time to develop.

It is Lars von Trier's first English-language film, and it is in a sepia-tone that adds to the feeling that Europe is crumbling. Water is an element that flows throughout, again adding to the feeling that something is rotten.

Elphick hooks up with Me Me Lai in her last film. She had done a lot of cannibal work before this - an interesting combination of actors.

Elphick goes into a experimental drug-induced hypnotic state to try and recreate the crimes and catch the killer. Things get really surreal from here.

Cinematography, sound, and special effects were all superb in this very strange film.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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