Whether you call it Europa or Zentropa, this 1991 Lars Von Trier (Dogville/ The Kingdom) effort is nothing short of a masterpiece in technique and style. With characters and locations moving between colour and black and white, often in the same scene, it’s a film where it’s impossible not to marvel at the astonishing visuals. Everything about Europa is slightly surreal, slightly disconcerting. It’s opening in particular narrated by Max Von Sydhow in which you are effectively put under hypnosis to enter the film has to rank as one of the creepiest most compelling openings in the history of cinema. Set in post war Germany in 1945, American (Von Trier regular Jean-Marc Bar) travels to Germany and gets a job as a sleeping car conductor. With elements of the Nazi party still participating in a guerrilla campaign, he finds a dark paranoid world decimated by the Allied bombing campaign, in which the population faced with the extremity of their situation are desperate and at times ruthless. Finding himself pulled in every direction, he is awash in a sea of competing agendas, his apparently naive neutrality tested at every turn. Von Trier manages to affect a dark sense of unease, in which you align yourself with Barr’ character and never know who to trust. Whilst the performances, also including the legendary Udo Kier (Kingdom/ My Own Private Idaho), are uniformly great, for some reason there’ a coldness to Europa, a difficulty to fully engage with the plight of the characters, perhaps because of the amazing visuals. In fact you can understand why post Europa Von Trier moved increasingly into hand held improvised cinema to the extent that he helped found the Dogma manifesto. Europa is the complete antithesis to Dogma and it is absolutely amazing.
This is a deluxe edition and you’ve hit the jackpot with Von Trier’ at times cruel and arrogant audio commentary alongside the producer Udo Kier and Jean-Marc Barr. There’ a fascinating making of doco that goes into the self imposed difficulties Von Trier had to put up with, trailers and interviews with the cast and crew.