LARS VON TRIER
– ELEMENT OF CRIME – 1984
The first thing to say concerns
the atmosphere and the style of the film. It is bleak. It is dark. The only
color is a few dots of red in a lot of black. We are always or nearly always
underground, in tunnels, galleries, with running water, in sewers or equivalent
places. It is always the night with just some red lights or fire cutting the
darkness. Then when we are inside some buildings they are just like outside, in
ruins, dirty, bleak, dark, bad hotels when it is not some kind of indescribable
refuge for human rats. It is supposed to be Europe, some reduce it to Germany, after WW2
and it is just a vast wasteland abandoned to its own irreversible decay.
The characters are two let’s say
ex-cops. One, Osborne, has fallen out of grace though he is the head and
thinker of the film, and the other one, Fischer, is an ex-cop who ran away from
police work to find some peace in Cairo.
One day he accepts to be hypnotized by a doctor to try to find some solution to
a case that is haunting him. This explains the blurred and fuzzy images, the
lack of details and the concentration on desolation and a few details here and
there that are hardly visible and recognizable or identifiable.
The only interest of the film,
apart from this dystopian if not suicidal vision of Europe
is that Osborne advocates a special method to deal with serial killers. You
have to enter their minds and penetrate their motivations. Why do they do this,
why do they do it like that, and thus understand every single detail of the
pattern of serial killers because they follow patterns. This is profiling as it
was at the time devised by the FBI in Quantico
But the film shows that the cop runs a risk: he will little by little get into
the tracks if not the footsteps of the killer in order to stop him by knowing
what his next crime will be. He thus becomes the serial killer, and not only in
a way, in reality. He has to stop and he did stop just in time.
I am not sure that the fact the
prostitute he uses all along has had a child by the killer Harry Grey adds
anything to the plot except that Fischer is thus put some more in the position
and even place of the killer to make us even doubt whether he is not the killer
himself. That’s the five seconds of tragedy, or rather melodrama. Of course we
do not really know what is the past, what is the hypnosis or what is a new trip
. Chronology is not important at all.
A film that is difficult to
really penetrate because of this somber darkness that wraps everything, every
detail in some unbearable horror. We are like repulsed by it more than in
anyway attracted to it. Horrified no, terrified no, grossed out for sure.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU