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Forbrydelsens Element

The Element of Crime

Denmark 1984
produced by
Per Holst (executive) for Per Holst Filmproduktion, Det Danske Filminstitut
directed by Lars Von Trier
starring Michael Elphick, Esmond Knight, Me Me Lai, Jerold Wells, Ahmed El Shenawi, Astrid Henning-Jensen, János Herskó, Stig Larsson, Harry Harper, Roman Moskowicz, Lars Von Trier, Frederik Casby, Duke Addabayo, Jon Bang Carlsen, Leif Magnusson, Preben Lerdorff Rye, Camilla Overbye Roos, Maria Behrendt, Morgens Rukov, Gotha Andersen
written by Lars Von Trier, Niels Vorsel, music by Bo Holten, song Der letzte Tourist in Europa by Mogens Dam, Henrik Blichmann

Lars Von Trier's Europa Trilogy

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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After years in Egypt, cop Fisher (Michael Elphick) returns to Europe, which has since become little more than a wasteland, to investigate a series of killings known as the Lotta murders (since all the killed young girls were named Lotta). In Europe, Fisher meets his old mentor again, professor Osborne (Esmond Knight), on whose book The Element of Crime he has based his methods of investigating - meaning basically to identify with a criminal to the fullest in order to get on his trail ... but for some reason, professor Osborne doesn't want to have anything to do with his theories anymore, he even despiss them and burns his books and papers. But still, among Osborne's papers, Fisher finds a seemingly innocent roundttrip ticket belonging to one Harry Grey ... and since Osborne has once also worked on the Lotta murder case, Fisher figures he has struck gold and Grey has to be the killer.

So Fisher makes the roundtrip just as Grey did, and eventually one of his stops turns out to be a brothel, where he meets prostitute Kim (Me Me Lai - yes, the one from the cannibal-movies). Fisher even takes Kim, who only wants to get away from her brothel, with him, continuing the trip just like Grey did, and along the way he starts to behave less and less responsible and more and more detestable, just like Grey did (at least Fisher thinks that). Taking the same drugs as Grey of course doesn't help either, and soon he turns violent towards Kim, even trying to kill her, until she confesses she has not only had a relationship with Grey, she even had his baby. 

Suddenly Fisher realizes what he has become, and he empties his gun into the air, gets off the drugs, leaves Kim and wants to leave the Lotta case as well ... when an old man brings him a young girl named Lotta, to protect - since he is the cop in charge of the case.

Fisher accepts, but then his Grey persona kicks in again, and since she is named Lotta and is exactly where Grey would have killed her (he only killed at certain places), Fisher kills the girl in Grey's stead ... and somehow he even gets away with it ...

Later though, Fisher learns from police chief Kramer (Jerold Wells) that Grey has died years ago, and the last few Lotta-murders were not even commited by him but by professor Osborne, who - just like Fisher - has taken the identification with the killer just a tad too far ... and now, Osborne has killed himself ...


Let me get one thing straight at the beginning: This is not light entertainment, not just another genre-film. Element of Crime, director Lars Von Trier's first feature film, is a hallucinatory, nightmarish, psychedelic and sometimes even surreal variation on the crime genre. It might be brain-heavy and it's definitely not a party movie, but if you are ready to dive into the weird and otherworldly world of this movie, you might be richly rewarded.

A timeless piece of art, and probably Lars Von Trier's best to date.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD