Nearly incomprehensible but stylistically dazzling outing from von Trier, Europe’s answer to David Lynch and David Cronenberg. While deep in a hypnotic trance, a detective (Elphick) recounts his investigation into a series of murders. In trying to track down the killer, he applies the psychological tools picked up from his mentor –all of which the aging, eccentric mentor compiled in the titular criminal psychology manual. Suffused in irradiated brown-orange tones and superbly expressive visual tricks, von Trier succeeds in creating an apocalyptic tone, a sense that the unfolding story is but a figment of some fever dream. As impressive as that is, The Element of Crime is a strangely muddled affair, hardly compelling in terms of character and narrative drive, possessed of a dark, deviant sexuality and a nightmarish grittiness that seem to exist for their own sake, as an homage to the underbelly elements of noir. Element is definitely another entry in the Style Over Substance category of moviemaking; von Trier would have far greater success fusing his extraordinary aesthetic with a fully developed storyline years later in Zentropa.
Directed by: Lars von Trier
Screenplay by: Tómas Gislason, William Quarshie, Lars von Trier, Niels Vørsel, Stephen Wakelam
Cast: Michael Elphick, Esmond Knight, Me Me Lai, Jerold Wells, Ahmed El Shenawi