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The Element of Crime (1984)
The Element of Crime (Danish: Forbrydelsens element) is the first feature film directed by noted Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier. The film, released in 1984, is also the first in the director's Europa trilogy. The other two films in the trilogy are Epidemic (1987) and Europa (1991). In The Element of Crime, an English detective named Fisher (Michael Elphick), who has become an expatriate living in Cairo, undergoes hypnosis in order to recall his last case. The Europe of his dreamlike recollection is a dystopia, dark and decaying. Fisher remembers pursuing an elusive killer called the "Lotto Murderer", who was strangling and then mutilating young girls who were selling lottery tickets. He attempts to track down the killer using the controversial methods outlined in a book entitled The Element of Crime, written by his disgraced mentor, Osborne (Esmond Knight). He is joined in his search by a prostitute named Kim (Me Me Lai), who, it turns out, has had a child by his target. Fisher's search is based on a tailing report written by Osborne when trying to track down a murderer who had been killing in the same way as the "Lotto Murderer", but who, supposedly, has since died in a crash.
This is interesting for five minutes, but after 105 it gets tedious to an extreme. It also makes it extremely difficult to actually see what's going on -- not only is everything red, but the whole film is shot at night and almost all of it in the rain.
Von Trier's story is typically bleak and creepy, and had he opted for a more straightforward telling of it, the film would surely have been more successful. As it stands now, it's an oddity that stands as a fair introduction to the work of cinema's most curious auteur.
Aka Forbrydelsens element.