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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.