The Element of Crime: Criterion Collection

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

This film takes place within a dismal future, where for reasons unknown the world has fallen into a state of darkness. The word darkness is used to mean the literal sense as there is very little light, but also to describe the way people have become inside, which can be quite dark as we soon learn. Fisher (Michael Elphick) returns to his former home somewhere in Europe and though he thought his street days were done, he decides to also return to his former profession. You see, Fisher was a police officer and now with the help of his mentor, he plans on solving a string of brutal murders. He has been gone for well over a decade, but with his mentor’s assistance via a book he was written, Fisher hopes to have some luck. This book is titled The Element Of Crime and Fisher will use it to track down his suspect, which won’t be easy by any means. Fisher starts out with good intentions, but will he soon get sucked into the darkness that surrounds him?

Some films just seem to unusual for no reason, as if being strange just for the sake of being so. And since these films gather audiences, I suppose there is a market for that type of cinema. But then some films are unusual and work, such The Element Of Crime and many other films by Lars Von Trier. This film has all the elements like darkness, intense visuals, and strange characters, but when placed inside Von Trier’s film world, they all work together to create one large picture that flat out rocks. I can watch this movie over and again, each time picking some small detail I’ve missed before and few films can boast that. And these small details aren’t always superficial either, some of them can unlock some of the story’s meaning and depth. In fact, The Element Of Crime is just the right kind of movie to own, because you just can’t take it all in the first time…or the second time. You need to devote some time to this film to pick most of it up, but it is worth it each and every time. This disc is part of The Criterion Collection and features a wonderful documentary on Von Trier, which makes this a must have for fans.

Whenever dark cinema is brought up, I think most people would mention names such as Alex Proyas and Terry Gilliam, but I think of Lars Von Trier. Von Trier isn’t as bankable as the previous names by any means, but whenever his name is attached to a project, you can bet the farm you’ll remember what you’ve just seen. You might not like it in the least, but you will remember it because Von Trier uses a very distinct visual style. His films support solid storylines and terrific acting also, but the visuals simply blow me every time. Such is the case with this film, The Element Of Crime and while I like several of his films, this one stands as my personal favorite. Von Trier uses such haunting imagery and angles, this one really sticks with you after the credits have rolled. His work isn’t for everyone, but fans of his simply cannot afford to miss this one, especially with such a nice disc. Other Von Trier films include The Idiots, Europa, Epidemic, Dancer In The Dark, and Breaking The Waves. The cast in this film includes Michael Elphick (Withnail And I), Jerold Wells (Smashing Time, Time Bandits), Esmond Knight (Peeping Tom, I Claudius), and Me Me Lai (Man From Deep River, Eaten Alive).

Video: How does it look?

The Element Of Crime is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a visually complex film to be sure, but I found no problems with this superb transfer. All the details seem sharp and visible, but never overexposed which sometimes can happen in darker films like this. The unusual shades used come through perfectly, which is impressive to say the least. And as is crucial to this film the blue shades look wonderful, never smearing even a trace. The contrast is dead on and though I expect a lot of grain in some scenes, I was pleased to find only a minimal amount. An overall impressive transfer that will have fans in utter heaven when they pick up this disc.

Audio: How does it sound?

The original mono track is included and though somewhat limited, I was not disappointed with the results. I never noticed much in terms of harshness or hiss, which pleased me to no end. The music fits into the film’s atmosphere well and sounds great in this mix, with no distortion at all. I also love the sound effects and since they add a lot to the film, I am glad they sound clean and distinct on this track. The vocals show no signs of trouble either, with crispness and sharpness present at all times. I also found no inconsistencies with the volume levels, so one element never overpowers the others. In simpler words, you’ll never have to reach for the remote to keep a proper balance. Optional English subtitles have also been included, just in case you need them.

Supplements: What are the extras?

You can fine tune your system using the included color bars or view the film’s theatrical trailer, but the finest supplement is Tranceformer: A Portrait Of Lars Von Trier. This almost hour long documentary is fantastic and thanks to the optional English subtitles, even those of us who don’t speak the language can partake. If you’re a Von Trier fan and haven’t seen this documentary, run (don’t walk) to the video store and rent/purchase this disc, just so you can watch it. I am so pleased Criterion has included this documentary and it adds infinite additional value to this disc.

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