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The Element of Crime (1984)

Forbrydelsens element (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 14 May 1984 (Denmark)
A cop in a dystopian Europe investigates a serial killings suspect using controversial methods written by his now disgraced former mentor.

Director:

Lars von Trier (as Lars Von Trier)

Writers:

Niels Vørsel, William Quarshie (dialogue translation) | 2 more credits »
Reviews
12 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Denmark

Language:

English | Arabic

Release Date:

14 May 1984 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

The Element of Crime See more »

Filming Locations:

Denmark See more »

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Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,003
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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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 »

Connections

Referenced in Portræt af: Lars von Trier (1991) See more »

Soundtracks

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

 
Schmuck of Ages
26 April 2003 | by WriterDaveSee all my reviews

Hypnosis and criminology get the once over in this highly disturbing first entry from maverick film-maker Von Trier. A washed up profiler returns home to a post-apocalyptic Europe from Cairo to investigate "The Lotto Girl" murders and becomes determined to prove the methods of his mentor (who has since gone mad) in catching the serial killer. Odes to Hitchcock and other classic film noir abound.

Von Trier manipulates every aspect of every shot (the use of color tones is especially alarming) to create a totally fantasized vision of psychological torture. This, much like his follow up masterpiece, "Zentropa" is the polar opposite of his "no frills" Dogma classics of more recent years "Breaking the Waves" and "Dancer in the Dark." Love them or loathe them, you can't deny the talent and thought that went into making these drastically different works or film art.

Unfortunately, by setting "The Element of Crime" in such a vaguely distant future (I can only guess this is Europe in nuclear winter) and pacing the film to be so hypnotically listless, there really is no heart to this film. "Zentropa" had historical context and better executed tension, and is thus far superior. The only context "The Element of Crime" has is someone else's nightmare.

The screenplay seems to be ahead of its time, as there are many depressingly cynical one-liners that David Fincher wish he had put in "Fight Club." That is the only hint of humor at all to break the oppressive feel of this film, and it is very very dark and nihilistic humor at that. Alas, while you can study and find value in the technical aspects of this film, there is no "joy" to be found, and we, much like the protagonist must awaken from this film nightmare by screaming "I believe in joy!"

Side Notes: ala Hitchcock, Von Trier has a cameo as "the schmuck of ages."


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