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Europa [1991] [DVD]

8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Barbara Sukowa, Jean-Marc Barr, Udo Kier, Ernst-Hugo Järegård, Erik Mørk
  • Directors: Lars von Trier
  • Writers: Lars von Trier, Niels Vørsel
  • Producers: Bo Christensen, François Duplat, Gunnar Obel, Gérard Mital, Patrick Godeau
  • Format: PAL, Colour, Anamorphic, Widescreen, Digital Sound
  • Language: English, German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Tartan
  • DVD Release Date: 29 July 2002
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006FN5Q
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 81,324 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

At the end of WWII, a young German-American named Leo (Jean-Marc Barr) goes to Germany to help rebuild the country. Working as a train conductor, he witnesses the cruel treatment of Germans by Allied soldiers and the horrendous destruction brought about by the war (his train stops at towns that no longer exist). Eventually he becomes involved with the railroad boss's daughter, herself an ex-Nazi partisan.


The unquiet twin spirits of Fritz Lang and Franz Kafka preside over Europa, Lars von Trier's sardonic, saturnine vision of just-post-WWII Germany. In 1945 Leo Kessler, a young American of German descent, returns to the shattered land of his forebears to help in its reconstruction. Through his uncle, who works for the huge railway network Zentropa, he gets a job as a trainee sleeping-car conductor and also meets the seductive Katharina Hartmann, daughter of Zentropa's owner Max. But acts of sabotage and murder are being planned by unregenerate young Nazis calling themselves Werewolves, and very soon Leo's hapless innocent abroad starts finding out that, in this time and place of shifting loyalties, nothing and no one are what they seem.

As if to accentuate this mood of nervous ambiguity, von Trier constantly switches from black and white to colour, and from English to (subtitled) German dialogue, often right in the middle of a scene. The cast boasts several iconic figures of European cinema, including Barbara Sukowa (a Fassbinder favourite) as femme fatale Katharina, and Eddie Constantine (from Godard's Alphaville) as a manipulative American colonel, while a literally hypnotic voice-over is spoken by the great Bergman actor Max von Sydow. There's more than a hint that von Trier intends a mischievous side-glance at today's Europe, and today's European film industry, in resentful thrall to the might of Hollywood. And while Europa is gripping and richly atmospheric, it's never without humour. The long, final episode is a tour de force of tragicomedy, with poor Leo juggling the competing demands of love and loyalty, life and death, while being harassed by his uncle who, horrified that Leo has lost his official peaked cap, forces him to wear a knotted handkerchief on his head, as well as by a pair of punctilious railroad inspectors demanding to know how long it takes him to make up a sleeping-car bunk. Lang and Kafka, sure, but maybe a touch of the Marx Brothers, too. --Philip Kemp --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 64 people found the following review helpful By feverpitch96 on 14 Aug. 2002
Format: DVD
This is easily one of the most striking and memorable films I have ever seen. It draws the viewer in immediately and tells a well-paced, rewarding and dark tale of a cruel and tragic time in Europe's recent history, from an unusual perspective. In 1992 as I watched it unfold in the cinema I was convinced it was the best film I had seen in perhaps ten years...and the final scene left me literally speechless and rather disturbed during the 30-minute drive home with my partner afterwards. This is not easy to do.
"Europa" (renamed "Zentropa" for its non-European cinema release) is a stunning conclusion to eccentric Dane Lars von Trier's so-called "Europa Trilogy", begun with "The Element of Crime" in 1984 and continued with "Epidemic" in 1988. Why Tartan Video have chosen to release only two of these three films at this point on DVD seems somewhat of a mystery.
Filmed in Denmark and Poland, with German, French, American and Danish actors (and a Swedish narrator!), in the English language with occasional passages of German, this is truly a multi-national effort.
von Trier presents us with a dark, wet, dreary, frequently-sinister and mainly-monochrome world in which there are few happy endings, brutally realistic vignettes of human nature and no easy solutions. The end of WWII has left Germany a broken, violent, mean, amoral and mercenary place, its remaining people deeply brutalised, its society and industry almost totally destroyed by the invading and retaliating Allied forces. The American occupying force is reorganising ex-Nazi Germany's industries and economy and offers the only stability of law, and it is clear that Compromise is the order of the day if Germany is to find its feet as a nation again.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tim Spencer on 20 Feb. 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This fine film is, to some tastes, a bit "tricksy" and far too self-knowing. However this movie was made before Trier became an exponant of the Dogme95 philosophy towards film-making (watch films like Festen, The Idiots, etc if you want to know more about this anti-hollywood style of movie making).
However, Europa is a damn good thriller as well as being clever. Parts of the film will keep you at the edge of your seat, Trier really is a true craftsman in film art. Europa also has a very (deliberate) hynotic and dream-like quality.
Without giving away any "spoilers" - the ending is fabulous. It really is about the darkness that is Europe and is aptly set in Germany just after WW2, where Nazi terrorists still lurk in the shadows and occupying forces ruthlessly hunt down any sympathisers. Unfortunately for the main protagonist (played by Jean Marc Barr) sitting on the fence is likely to get you killed...
I can't recommend this film highly enough. It is a shame Trier is unlikely to ever make a film like this again. Much as I like his Dogme95 films (especially Dancer in The Dark and Breaking the Waves) - I feel that this was a style of film-making that could have been continued and developed by Mr Trier...
Buy it now... especially if you want an intellegent thriller and are sick of CGI laden hollywood movies...
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 July 2004
Format: DVD
Is it a hypnotically induced psychological nightmare or a descent into the reality of a Nazi regime? Lars Von Trier's award winning exposition into post-war Germany takes you on a subconscious journey through the eyes of Leopold Kessler, brilliantly played by Jean-Mark Barr. Von Trier lures you into this post war psychodrama via a train journey on the Zentropa railway complex, which exposes the climate of guilt and anti-American feeling of post-war Germany.
Set in 1945, Leopold Kessler(Jean-Mark Barr) is an American with German heritage, who goes back to Germany to help with the restoration of the country. His pacifist ideals however, are soon challenged upon the realisation that he is being used as a pawn by the Werwolf Nazi organisation. His love interest, seductively played by Barbara Sukowa (The Third Miracle, Johnny Mnemonic), is Katarina, the Nazi sympathising daughter of Max Hartmann the railway owner, played by Jorgen Reenberg.
The story is partly narrated by Max Von Sydow, in the form of hypnotic suggestions that add to the surreal quality of the film. The hypnotic theme runs congruently with the desire of the railway owner to repress the memory of the war-time function of the trains which was to carry Jewish prisoners to concentration camps. This is portrayed in a scene brilliantly handled by the masterful Von Trier, where Kessler walks through the train and time into hidden carriages containing concentration camp prisoners and the inescapable truth of the past. This post war repression is further signified by the constant pulling down of the shutters on the train, in an attempt to block out the reality of post-war Germany and the repercussions of the war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 7 July 2006
Format: DVD
Seen together, Lars Von Trier's Europa trilogy isn't exactly a profound experience, but it does underline the fact that even when he's boring he's never dull. On one level, none of them should work and none of them do, yet on another there's an audacity to them that engages far more than the subject matter: at times, the hypnotic execution is more than enough to compensate for the narrative confusion. Indeed, the whole trilogy seems to be driven by dreams and trances. Element of Crime is a tale emotionlessly told by a detective under hypnosis, his lack of passion in his voice-over often mirrored by the artificiality of the performances and the dreamlike imagery of a burned out, waterlogged Europe that feels like one of the fevered headaches that consume him as he becomes the monster he is supposedly tracing down. Epidemic even ends with an apocalyptic hypnotic trance as the parasitic pair of Von Trier and his insufferably smug screenwriter Niels Vorsel, who have been feeding on the pain and misery of others for inspiration for a script, even turning a painful memory from Udo Kier into a scene in their proposed film, ultimately reap what they sow. A mixture of the odd great image (Von Trier's doctor hanging from a rope with a Red Cross flag attached) and the mundane, it's an apt reminder of just how similar the act of artistic creation can be to a contagious disease that wounds those who come into its orbit.

Europa, aka Zentropa, opens with Max Von Sydow's unseen narrator hypnotising the audience to bring them into the film.
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