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An American of German descent arrives in post-war Germany 1945. His uncle gets him a job on the Zentropa train line as a sleeping car conductor. The American's wish is to be neutral to the ongoing purges of loyalists by the Allied forces and do what he can to help a hurting country, but he finds himself being used by both the Americans and the influential family that owns the railroad. After falling in love with the railroad magnate's daughter, he finds that he can't remain neutral and must make some difficult choices.Written by
Ed Sutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
You will now listen to my voice. My voice will help you and guide you still deeper into Europa. Every time you hear my voice, with every word and every number, you will enter into a still deeper layer - open, relaxed and receptive. I shall now count from one to ten. On the count of ten, you will be in Europa. I say: one. And as you focus your attention entirely on my voice, you will slowly begin to relax. Two - your hands and your fingers are getting warmer and heavier. Three - ...
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That was the first thing that sprang to mind as I watched the closing credits to Europa make there was across the screen, never in my entire life have I seen a film of such technical genius, the visuals of Europa are so impressive that any film I watch in it's wake will only pale in comparison, forget your Michael Bay, Ridley Scott slick Hollywood cinematography, Europa has more ethereal beauty than anything those two could conjure up in a million years. Now I'd be the first to hail Lars von Trier a genius just off the back of his films Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark, but this is stupid, the fact that Europa has gone un-noticed by film experts for so long is a crime against cinema, whilst overrated rubbish like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Life is Beautiful clean up at the academy awards (but what do the know) Europa has been hidden away, absent form video stores and (until recently) any British TV channels.
The visuals in Europa are not MTV gloss; it's not a case of style over substance, its more a case of substance dictating style. Much like his first film The Element of Crime, von Trier uses the perspective of the main character to draw us into his world, and much like Element, the film begins with the main character (or in the case of Europa, we the audience) being hypnotized. As we move down the tracks, the voice of the Narrator (Max von Sydow) counts us down into a deep sleep, until we awake in Europa. This allows von Trier and his three cinematographers to pay with the conventions of time and imagery, there are many scenes in Europa when a character in the background, who is in black and white, will interact with a person in the foreground who will be colour, von Trier is trying to show us how much precedence the coloured item or person has over the plot, for instance, it's no surprise that the first shot of Leopold Kessler (Jean-marc Barr) is in colour, since he is the only character who's actions have superiority over the film.
The performances are good, they may not be on par with performances in later von Trier films, but that's just because the images are sometimes so distracting that you don't really pick up on them the first time round. But I would like to point out the fantastic performance of Jean-Marc Barr in the lead role, whose blind idealism is slowly warn down by the two opposing sides, until he erupts in the films final act. Again, muck like The Element of Crime, the film ends with our hero unable to wake up from his nightmare state, left in this terrible place, with only the continuing narration of von Sydow to seal his fate. Europa is a tremendous film, and I cant help thinking what a shame that von Trier has abandoned this way of filming, since he was clearly one of the most talented visual directors working at that time, Europa, much like the rest of his cinematic cannon is filled with a wealth of iconic scenes. His dedication to composition and mise-en-scene is unrivalled, not to mention his use of sound and production design. But since his no-frills melodramas turned out to be Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark then who can argue, but it does seems like a waste of an imaginative talent. 10/10
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