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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime set of von Trier-related delights (1984-1992).
Lars von Trier fans of the world, rejoice!! Finally, his first three films - subtitled The Europe Trilogy, for their repeated themes of post-war devastation, optimistic main characters, and corrupt villains, etc - have been made available for the first time in this lovely box-set; which includes re-mastered versions of all three films with commentaries throughout by von...
Published on 3 Sep 2005 by Jonathan James Romley

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars NB: I'm reviewing the quality of the box set, not of the films.
I bought this set a while ago, and only started watching it today. As I stress in the title, my two stars refer to the quality of these dvds, not of the films. I have only watched the first dvd so far (Element of Crime). The combination of bad sound quality, a lot of mumbling and strange accents made me reach for the remote to turn on subtitles. Surprise! There are more...
Published on 31 Oct 2012 by Wish I Were a Film Critic


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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime set of von Trier-related delights (1984-1992)., 3 Sep 2005
This review is from: Lars Von Trier's E-Trilogy - Element Of Crime / Epidemic / Europa - Subtitled [DVD] (DVD)
Lars von Trier fans of the world, rejoice!! Finally, his first three films - subtitled The Europe Trilogy, for their repeated themes of post-war devastation, optimistic main characters, and corrupt villains, etc - have been made available for the first time in this lovely box-set; which includes re-mastered versions of all three films with commentaries throughout by von Trier and his collaborators, behind the scenes documentaries, interviews, short-films, trailers, biographies and more. The three films all look stunning, with von Trier personally supervising the re-mastering of the original prints and the overall sound-design. This was the period when von Trier could definitely have been referred to as the most visually distinctive filmmaker on the planet, and it shows, with the young filmmaker using everything from strong colour filters, moody lighting, crane-shots, tracking shots, front and rear-screen projection, composition, forced perspectives and distinctive production design, to create a surreal world that draws heavily on the combined influence of Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, Tarkovsky's Stalker, and the collected works of Franz Kafka.
His first film, The Element Of Crime, is a moody colour-tinted European-noir unfolding in a post-apocalyptic city, where a hound-dog detective must search for a vicious child-murderer using only the book written by his mentor as a guide. The story is, of course, preposterous, with von Trier pitching the whole thing halfway between Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and the aforementioned Tarkovsky epic, with the film's sepia-printed dreamscapes giving way to an angst-ridden internal struggle for it's central character. von Trier leaves a lot of the deeper implications of the plot for the audience to work out, seemingly more concerned with navigating his camera around a series of nightmarish underground labyrinths where the story plays out. For some, it's a shallow attempt to pastiche the masters of European cinema in the guise of pulp fiction, whilst for others, it's a mysterious and evocative series of hallucinations and one of the most visually astounding works of "neo-noir" ever created. Regardless of where you stand; there's no denying the sheer talent of the young von Trier and his cinematic cohorts, as they breeze through the various codes and symbols synonymous with the genre, subverting the notion of both noir and science-fiction with a bleak and, to some extent, expressionistic thriller that is, quite possibly, unlike anything else you'll ever see.
The second part of the trilogy is a different beast entirely... a world away from the serious and overly constructed jumble of signs and signifiers found in The Element Of Crime. According to von Trier, Epidemic began as a bet between himself and the head of the Danish Film Institute who claimed that von Trier would be incapable of producing a film for no more than one million kroner. von Trier accepted the bet and produced Epidemic... a self-aware mock-documentary, inter-cut with outlandish scenes of an idealistic doctor flying across the Danish countryside in a helicopter, in order to stop a plague that is quickly spreading, cross country. The film is absurd, but a great deal of fun regardless (something we're not entirely used to from the auteur behind heartbreaking melodramas like Breaking The Waves and Dancer In The Dark), with the real director and screenwriter (von Trier and Niels VÝrsel) playing the respective director and writer in the film within a film. von Trier even goes one further by appearing in the film's beautifully composed fantasy scenes (the film within the film within the film!!) as the abovementioned doctor, whilst his ex-wife appears briefly as a nurse. It's certainly not a film for everyone... the documentary footage is dodgy, with von Trier and VÝrsel improvising lines about the nature of writing in front of a camera that wavers in a style not too dissimilar to his later TV epic, The Kingdom, whilst the fantasy sequences feature violent death, hypnosis, and men stood screaming, submerged in a lake. It's all good fun, and does at least have a sense of adventure and imagination about it... something that is all too rare in most films these days.
At the end of the day, Epidemic remains a little-seen curio (this is the first ever release of the film on any format in the UK!!), certainly not on the same level as the wonderful, if slightly enigmatic Element Of Crime..., which, in turn, is somewhat inferior to the most vital film in this collection, 1991's Europa. Europa is one of my very favourite films; a mysterious and purposely elusive neo-noir set shortly after the fall of Germany in the Second World War; shot through with references to the German expressionist cinema of Murnau and Lang, and with further references to similar films like Sabotage and The Third Man. von Trier's dizzying use of camera-tricks sets it out as one of the most beautiful films ever created, with the rich black and white cinematography (from Dryer's regular cinematographer Henning Bendtsen) giving way to sweeping crane shots, elaborate composition (a bird-eye-view of a manner house following the character from room to room ends up on a shot that looks more like a piece of abstract, expressionist art) and the use of front and rear-screen projection, which allows von Trier and his crew to juxtapose the black and white with vivid bursts of colour to denote the key-characters and scenarios within the film.
I'd go so far as to hail Europa as a masterpiece of pure cinematic invention, and a testament to von Trier's skill as a visual filmmaker without equal; before he founded the Dogme manifesto and moved into more minimalist filmmaking. The themes and concerns found in these films prefigure the notions explored in later projects like The Idiots, Breaking The Waves and the more recent Dogville, with these idealistic characters ultimately bringing about their own-downfall as their idealism gives way to arrogance. This box-set is absolutely vital for anyone with an interest in von Trier's career, with the three films lovingly restored and packaged; whilst the inclusion of von Trier's short films and various documentaries related to the man and his work allows us to revaluate von Trier' position as one of the most important filmmakers currently at work. It therefore goes without saying that The Europe Trilogy box-set is, without question, the best DVD release of the year.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute work of genius, 18 April 2006
By 
Mellis (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lars Von Trier's E-Trilogy - Element Of Crime / Epidemic / Europa - Subtitled [DVD] (DVD)
There really aren't that many people who can be said to have totally altered the way we perceive film as an art form but Lars Von Trier is one such man. That may sound like pseudo-artsy bull but anyone who's seen any of his films would agree. The films in this trilogy cross so many genres and visual styles in such a stunning and idiosyncratic fashion that it is virtually impossible to actually describe them. Quite simply, you have to watch them. I'll have a go at describing the basics though:

Element Of Crime plays like a beautiful cross between The Maltese Falcon and Apocalypse Now as Elphick's hero gradually becomes immersed in a deranged world of vice and utterly deranged goings-on. There are dozens of cinephile in-jokes within the film (like the fact that some shots are set up to deliberatly resemble scenes from The Maltese Falcon) and if you get these you can feel very smug with yourself for knowing a bit of film, that said I've probably missed loads myself and I'm none the worse for it, it's still great entertainment. Some truly brilliant visuals, especially the scenes on the beach and with the butchery in the river. All in all a pretty staggering breakthrough into the world of cinema.

Epidemic is a totally different film, made on a tiny budget with almost no cast whatsoever. The great use of colour in Element Of Crime is replaced with a stark black & white which sets off the depressing, pessimistic mood very aptly. The word 'Epidemic' appearing in the top-left corner of the screen when typed into a typewriter and staying there for the entire duration of the film is an indication of the almost documentary feel some of the film has. Again it's apocalyptic, again great visuals (and a truly excellent use of real-life hypnosis-enduced screaming by some poor woman they managed to manipulate into believing she was living through a plague). About time this was seen in the UK, thank-you Tartan.

Europa is simply one of the best films ever made, it surpasses the other two just on the sheer weight of its genius. The visual effect of layered back projection which permeates the entire film is like watching several Hitchcock backdrops overlapping into something totally cohesive and mesmerizingly deep. The use of colour and black & white on the screen at the same time (for instance a character will enter in colour onto a screen in black & white, another character will move past them, off screen, and then re-appear in the next frame in colour as well, by which time the initial character might be black & white again) is done with such subtlety and ingenuity that it never becomes confusing or straining on vision but is always stunning. There has never been a film that looks like Europa. The narration by Max Von Sydow is perfectly paced and truly eerie, especially when over the train-track and drowning scenes. The continual feel that this is about the war and war guilt but yet not really about either comes from Von Trier's own family experiences and makes for a unique vision. Along with Werckmeister Harmoniak by Bela Tarr this is the greatest piece of visual cinema to be produced in decades.

The extras are ridiculously excessive, with more documentaries than you could shake several sticks at but this is not a bad thing, on the contrary, more is more. Some very interesting stuff about how they made the films (Europa took three years to make and you can see why, all those storyboards!) and some very good interviews with all involved.

Great films, great extras, great release by Tartan. If only more people would buy this and stop saying Jaws is the best movie ever made.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hypnotic viewing, 11 Oct 2006
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Lars Von Trier's E-Trilogy - Element Of Crime / Epidemic / Europa - Subtitled [DVD] (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. The film itself is the closest to a mainstream narrative of the trilogy, but even here Von Trier is constantly undercutting his noirish plot - an idealistic American becomes a pawn in the amoral politics of post-War Germany still plagued by the Nazi `Werwolf' resistance movement - with both strikingly expressionistic imagery (not least an audacious use of backprojected images) and that trademark fevered confusion until mindless destruction seems the only release. Of the three, this is the most visually audacious, with a superb use of black and white scope imagery that helps compensate for the awful performances by Jean Marc-Barr and Barbara Sukowa (who once again proves that she may be able to speak English and German but she can't act in either of them). Still, the presence of Ernst-Hugo Jaregard (so wonderful in The Kingdom) ensures that not all the cast are carved from wood.

Full marks for the excellent presentation - not only is Europa/Zentropa finally presented in 2.35:1 (the previous issue from Tartan was cropped to 1.85:1) but there are a huge number of interviews and documentaries spread over the three discs and the bonus fourth disc telling you everything you could want to know and more (sadly at least one doc is not subtitled in English). As well as trailers (including additional trailers for all Von Trier's films to date) and audio commentaries, there are two interesting Easter Eggs - Von Trier's graduation film Images of Relief (on Epidemic) and the short film Nocturne on Element of Crime.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars NB: I'm reviewing the quality of the box set, not of the films., 31 Oct 2012
This review is from: Lars Von Trier's E-Trilogy - Element Of Crime / Epidemic / Europa - Subtitled [DVD] (DVD)
I bought this set a while ago, and only started watching it today. As I stress in the title, my two stars refer to the quality of these dvds, not of the films. I have only watched the first dvd so far (Element of Crime). The combination of bad sound quality, a lot of mumbling and strange accents made me reach for the remote to turn on subtitles. Surprise! There are more than a dozen different options for subtitles, but the only English ones are subtitles of some commentary, not of the film! I had to made do with French or German subtitles, which was quite annoying. Had I known that the sound was so bad, I would not have bought the box set. If you, like me, have invested in a good quality tv and only buy original dvds in order to ensure high quality viewing, I don't think you'll be very happy with this box set.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Von Triers Trilogy, 30 Mar 2009
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This review is from: Lars Von Trier's E-Trilogy - Element Of Crime / Epidemic / Europa - Subtitled [DVD] (DVD)
Exactly what I expected, very good, bleak, dark, post war art films, impressive, evocative, draws out ones empathy, and leaves a hole, then fills it with awe.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 2011 release, 20 Feb 2012
This review is from: Lars Von Trier's E-Trilogy - Element Of Crime / Epidemic / Europa - Subtitled [DVD] (DVD)
This is a must-have for every von Trier fan. Containing his first three movies in superb quality, it also has hours of extras. This is the same product that has been released since 2005, but this 2011 release is NOT in a digipak case, but in a 4-disc keep case, two disc per side. While it would be nice to have it in digipak, it still is nice of Tartan to re-released this gem.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 1 Oct 2014
This review is from: Lars Von Trier's E-Trilogy - Element Of Crime / Epidemic / Europa - Subtitled [DVD] (DVD)
VERY GREAT GENIUS OF EXTRAORDINARY VISCERAL POETIC POWER LIKE ME IF I COULD GET A JOB
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Less impressed, 8 May 2010
This review is from: Lars Von Trier's E-Trilogy - Element Of Crime / Epidemic / Europa - Subtitled [DVD] (DVD)
I like lars von trier other movies, antichrist, dancer in the dark, but these were poor. too much dialogue, and just plain boring. i would probably say epidemic was the better of the 3.
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1 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars AVOID, 7 Mar 2010
By 
T. Wheeler (HERTFORDSHIRE) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lars Von Trier's E-Trilogy - Element Of Crime / Epidemic / Europa - Subtitled [DVD] (DVD)
Im amazes at the reviews these von trier films get I stupidly purchased all his films after watching antichrist and reading these reviews I can no believe how bad they are Im not a big budget film man but these look like they were made on a mobile phone Its hard to choose the worst of von triers films but they are the worst films ive seen in 40 years of film watching
How the man can remain so smug and self satisfied is beyond me
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