January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

The Danish Film Institute has commisioned to produce a motion picture, one they’ve titled The Cop and the Whore. The two have a two-hundred page screenplay and plans on how to make their vision come alive on the screen. But a computer error erased the entire script, leaving them back at the start with nothing to show for their efforts. The pair brainstorm to put the pieces back together, but neither seems to be able to remember the story. In fact, the only thing the two can remember is that the story was weak and they disliked their own work. In order to fulfill their side of the film agreement, the two sit down to write a new screenplay, in record time. The project is called Epidemic, based on the concept of a vicious virus that is unleashed on German soil. The two begin intense and exhaustive research on the subject, looking into all the obscure sources available, in order to craft this new vision. As this happens, a real plague begins to infect a number of people, as if their story had come to life. As people become desperate for a cure, a lot of the doctors refuse treatment and retreat to safehouses underground. But is the plague real and if so, what will become of the two filmmakers and their project?

The career of Lars von Trier isn’t well known to casual cinema fans, but if you have a strong interest in film, you know his work. He has kicked off a movement of bare bones filmmaking, not to mention helmed such films as Dancer in the Dark, The Element of Crime, The Idiots, Breaking the Waves, and the acclaimed mini-series The Kingdom. But before he was such a force in film, he made this movie, Epidemic. He was known to film buffs, thanks to the praise for The Element of Crime, but this, his second film wasn’t as held up. That is with good reason, as Epidemic isn’t as well crafted or well planned as his debut motion picture. I wouldn’t say this is a lost cause, but I don’t think Epidemic is a good movie. I was disappointed to see von Trier resort to simple statements about racism and swipes at American culture. If you want to do that, that is fine, but von Trier makes little effort to put depth behind his work here. So his social comments come off as overly simplistic pouts, not what we’ve come to expect from this filmmaker. There is a lot of potential here, the kind that you know von Trier could fulfill at his present level of skill. But here, his work seems rushed and halfhearted, so the film suffers. I can recommend Epidemic as a rental, but the film isn’t geared toward repeat sessions, so a purchase isn’t needed.

Video: How does it look?

Epidemic is presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. This was shot on a combination of 16MM and 35MM, which aren’t seamless formats. In other words, you’ll know when the 16MM clips are being shown. These sequences are soft and exhibit more grain than I’d like, but look decent, all things considered. The rest of the movie looks good, better than expected and a little more crisp than I anticipated. The film is in black & white, but there is a red colored element, which is novel at first, but soon becomes a distraction. In any event, the print looks good in the 35MM segments, with a nice amount of detail and clarity. The contrast remains consistent and stark, which ensures the visuals are just as intended. Aside from the inherent flaws in the 16MM elements, Epidemic looks terrific and fans should be more than satisfied.

Audio: How does it sound?

A mixture of Danish and English is spoken in Epidemic and of course, the original soundtrack is preserved in this release. As with the video, the difference in source material is evident, so the audio isn’t consistent. The English language portion is cleaner and smoother, with a more polished edge. On the other side of the coin, the Danish sequences come off as harsh and on the spot, which isn’t to say that is bad. On the whole, the audio is more than solid and presents no problems, though mono is limited in power and depth. You can turn on English subtitles also, which pop up in the Danish scenes to enhance the experience.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Lars von Trier contributes an audio commentary track, in which he is joined by writer Neils Vorsel. The two have a lot of fun here, recalling experiences from their shared work past. You’ll notice more than a few silent spaces, but all in all, this is an informative session. A fifty minute discussion of the Dogme 95 Manifesto is up next, in which von Trier, Wim Wenders, Jean-Marc Barre, and Lone Scherfig talk about the technique. This is a rather unique piece, as the speakers control their own cameras, which adds some style to the substance. This disc also includes a talent file on von Trier, as well as Nocturne, a short film by von Trier.

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