The Element of Crime [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1984]

Before the back-to-basics approach of the Dogma 95 manifesto, director Lars Von Trier was enamored by the tricks of filmmaking. His first feature, The Element of Crime, is an amber-soaked visual feast. With its distinctive color scheme, previous transfers of the film have been a muddy mess, making for a less than satisfying home-viewing experience. With this release from The Criterion Collection, the images have been restored splendidly. The film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is 16 x 9 enhanced. The soundtrack is in its original mono, so some of the dialogue competes with the rain-soaked sets, but much of that problem can be abated by enabling the English subtitles. The disc also features color bars, a theatrical trailer, and a documentary on the filmmaker. Entitled "Transformer: A Portrait of Lars Von Trier," it is a candid examination of his career consisting of numerous on-camera interviews with Von Trier and those who have worked on his films, as well as on-set footage of his breakthrough film Breaking the Waves. Though short on supplemental features, the print quality makes this disc another flawless presentation from Criterion.
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Special Features

  • Widescreen digital transfer, enhanced for 16x9 televisions
  • Stig Bjorkman's critically acclaimed 52-minute documentary: "Tranceformer: A Portrait of Lars von Trier" [1997], with optional English subtitles
  • Trailer
  • In English with optional subtitles
  • Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition


The Element of Crime
A detective plagued by headaches goes to a hypnotist and relives his investigation into a serial killer case in Lars von Trier's first feature, The Element of Crime. Fisher (Michael Elphick), a retired policeman, returns to Europe at the behest of his mentor, Osborne (Esmond Knight of The Red Shoes). Osborne, the author of an influential textbook called The Element of Crime, has given up his investigation into the Lotto Murders, in which a number of lottery ticket salesgirls have been killed and mutilated. The new chief of police, Kramer (former Benny Hill Show regular Jerold Wells), is a trigger-happy lunatic who objects to Fisher's methodical approach to crime solving. Osborne, meanwhile, seemingly losing his grip on reality, insists that the killer, Harry Grey, died in a car crash. Using Osborne's methods, Fisher tries to delve into the mind of Grey by following the path of a trip the killer took three years earlier, while Osborne was investigating him. Along the way, Fisher hooks up with a prostitute, Kim (Me Me Lai), who also has a link to Grey. As he gets closer to unraveling the mystery, Fisher finds himself taking on more and more aspects of the killer's persona. Von Trier uses a traditional film noir style voice-over, while visually, his film is a monochromatic sepia tone with occasional flashes of fluorescent blue. This film brought Von Trier international attention, paving the way for his success with Zentropa and The Kingdom. ~ Josh Ralske, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Michael Elphick
    Michael Elphick - Fisher
  • Esmond Knight
    Esmond Knight - Osborne
  • Image coming soon
    Me Me Lai - Kim
  • Astrid Henning-Jensen
    Astrid Henning-Jensen - Housekeeper
  • Image coming soon
    János Herskó - Coroner
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