1991 [GERMAN]

Drama / Thriller

IMDb Rating 7.6 10 19277

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Uploaded By: FREEMAN
July 19, 2020 at 11:01 AM



Max von Sydow as Narrator
Udo Kier as Lawrence Hartmann
Barbara Sukowa as Katharina Hartmann
1.01 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 52 min
P/S counting...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by daneelo 10 / 10

Brilliant, tough historically incorrect

A few years ago, a friend got from one of his other friends a video with the Michael Mann film 'Heat' on it. After we finished that movie, and were about to stand up, we saw that there is another film just after, tough on the cassette's envelope the owner didn't write it up. Yet we were all glued back to our seats by its distinct opening, which lacked credits.

Some two hours later, I just sat there wondering: how could I not have heard of this masterpiece before?...

This film was Europa. Lars von Trier woke film noir from the dead, deconstructed reality with intentionally obvious sets, yet often there was haunting similarity with post-war German photographs I saw. And then the tricky cuts!

The story itself is a hard-to-take moral odyssey that has no happy end. A young American pacifist of German descent comes to post-war Germany, intent on doing some good to pay for the bombs his countrymen dropped. But he mostly meets distrust and self-destructive defiance. He hires with Zentropa, a dining-and-sleeping-car company (modeled on Mitropa), whose owner is one of the Nazi collaborators the Occupiers whitewash. Our hero falls in love with his daughter - who later turns out to be a member of the Werewolf, Nazi post-war terrorists. When he doesn't understand the world (or just Europeans) anymore, in his rage he blows up a railroad bridge under a train which he just saved.

As a final note, for historical correctness: in the real world, the Werewolf were nowhere as important as the film implies, they were mostly a final Nazi propaganda coup. After an SS unit assassinated the major of Allied-occupied Aachen, two months before the capitulation, the Nazis announced the creation of whole legions of saboteurs and terrorists who will be ready to fight behind the lines, the Werewolf. But only a few hundred of mostly Hitler Youth received some training, and while two or three times some were deployed to murder suspected communists or forced-labourer foreigners in Bavarian villages to imprint lasting fear on inhabitants, with Hitler's death and the war's end it all fell apart.

However, the Werewolf propaganda had a profound effect on the occupiers. They feared the Werewolf everywhere, suspected it behind any serious accident - but without exception another cause was found later (ignored by some recent pseudo-historians). For example, when a gas main exploded in the police HQ of bombed-out Bremen, or when the Soviet military commander died in a motorbike accident in Berlin. The effect was strongest on the Soviets, who arrested tens of thousands (in large part children!) 'preemptively' on suspicion of being Werewolf, and closed them off in prison camps where a lot of them died.

Reviewed by UlrikSander 9 / 10

The culmination of Lars Von Trier's period of perfectionism -- 9/10

Storyline: Max von Sydow's voice-over narration hypnotizes the protagonist (and audience) back to 1945 where our protagonist the young American ideologist Leopold Kessler (Jean-Marc Barr) has just arrived in post-WWII 1945 Germany to help rebuilding the damaged country. Uncle Kessler (Ernst-Hugo Järegård) supplies Leopold with a job in the big Zentropa train corporation, but soon Leopold falls in love with Katharina Hartmann (Barbara Sukowa); daughter of Zentropa owner Max Hartmann (Jørgen Reenberg). Leopold soon finds himself caught in a web of corruption, being taken advantage of, losing his ideology, and is forced to chose between pest or colera.

Mysterious, mesmerizing, manipulative, noirish, haunting, beautiful, and ugly. These are some immediate, grandiose, descriptions that come to mind when thinking of Lars von Trier's 1991 masterpiece EUROPA; the final chapter of the Europa trilogy. In USA it was retitled ZENTROPA so audiences wouldn't confuse it with Agnieszka Holland's EUROPA EUROPA from 1990 (equally a WWII drama). The Europa trilogy also consists of FORBRYDELSENS ELEMENT from 1984 and EPIDEMIC from 1987 (the infamous experiment that only sold 900 tickets in the Danish cinemas). The trilogy thematically deals with hypnotism and loss of idealism, although the themes of this trilogy are not as essential as the visuals. In the opening-shot of EUROPA we see a locomotive moving towards us while our unidentified narrator literally hypnotizes us: "On the mental count of ten, you will be in Europa. Be there at ten. I say: ten". A metaphor for movies' ability to transport us into a subconscious dream-reality.

EUROPA utilizes a strange but extremely effective visual style -- that famous Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky is Trier's main-influence says it all. It's a black-and-white movie occasionally intertwined with red in form of blood, a red dress etc. According to rumors this inspired Steven Spielberg to use the similar effect in SHINDLER'S LIST from 1993 (coincidentially another WWII drama). Furthermore Trier uses so-called Dutch angels and reinvents background-projection by adding separately shot co-operating layers upon layers, but unlike old Hollywood movies that incorporated it for economical reasons, Trier uses it for artistic reasons. These carefully executed strange-looking visual techniques underline that we are in a dream-reality, we are hypnotized; the universe of EUROPA is not real! EUROPA is often criticized for weighing advanced technique (such as multi-layered background-projection) above plot and characters, but hey that's what reviewers criticized Stanley Kubrick's 1968 visual masterpiece 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY for -- nowadays it holds an obligatory place in all cinema-history books.

EUROPA also gets accused of historical incorrectness. Apparently Trier assigns the Nazis' Werewolf terrorist-group too much historical significance. According to various online-sources that's correct (a fascinating subject - try Googl'ing it yourself!), yet Trier's purposes are neither educational nor portraying history accurately. EUROPA is a never-ending nightmare. Leopold Kessler is hypnotized, therefore the universe that the audience encounters is a distorted reality. Equally it shows how our memory deceives us -- a 100% accurate reconstruction is a lie! Although young audiences who experience EUROPA are too young to have memories from WWII, we have a collective memory of it from various BBC documentaries, so these small inaccuracies actually serve a purpose: they inform us us that we are not in post-WWII Germany 1945, but in Leopolds memory of it.

All three Europa trilogy chapters portray young ideologists with noble intentions forced into corruption and losing their ideological innocence. The ambiguous endings of FORBRYDELSENS ELEMENT and EUROPA show the ideologists getting forever caught in their hypnotized realities. Before, during and after shooting EUROPA in 1990 in Poland, Lars von Trier and co-writer Niels Vørsel were extremely interested in WWII. It shows. It's packed with extremely beautiful shots catching the atmosphere of the time-period spot-on. A great example is the old Polish church (EUROPA was shot in Poland primarily for economic reasons) in the last act of EUROPA. As with 2001: SPACE ODYSSEY I think EUROPA will receive it's rightfully deserved place in cinema-history. Its method of twisting old film-noir love-affair clichés and visual techniques is so unique, strange and completely different from anything you will see from Hollywood nowadays, or any other dream-factory for that matter.

EUROPA is an essential movie in the Lars von Trier catalog. Some write it off as pure commercial speculation, but that would be catastrophic. It's right up there with other Trier classics and semi-classics such as FORBRYDELSENS ELEMENT from 1984, the TV-series RIGET from 1993 and DOGVILLE from 2003. It's a unique experience from before Trier cared for his actors, and before the Dogme95 Manifesto. Watch it! "On the count of ten..." 9/10

Reviewed by jzappa 8 / 10

Abandon Personal Restraint for This Purely Visceral, Sardonic Work of Bizarre Nostalgia.

Released as Zentropa in North America to avoid confusion with Agniezska Holland's own Holocaust film Europa Europa, this third theatrical feature by a filmmaker who never ceases to surprise, inspire or downright shock is a bizarre, nostalgic, elaborate film about a naive American in Germany shortly following the end of WWII. The American, named Leo, doesn't fully get what he's doing there. He has come to take part in fixing up the country since, in his mind, it's about time Germany was shown some charity. No matter how that sounds, he is not a Nazi sympathizer or so much as especially pro-German, merely mixed up. His uncle, who works on the railroad, gets Leo a job as a helmsman on a sleeping car, and he is increasingly enmeshed in a vortex of 1945 Germany's horrors and enigmas.

This progression starts when Leo, played rather memorably by the calm yet restless actor Jean-Marc Barr, meets a sultry heiress on the train played by Barbara Sukowa, an actress with gentility on the surface but internal vigor. She seduces him and then takes him home to meet her family, which owns the company which manufactures the trains. These were the precise trains that took Jews to their deaths during the war, but now they run a drab day-to-day timetable, and the woman's Uncle Kessler postures as another one of those good Germans who were just doing their jobs. There is also Udo Kier, the tremendous actor who blew me away in Von Trier's shocking second film Epidemic, though here he is mere scenery.

Another guest at the house is Eddie Constantine, an actor with a quiet strength, playing a somber American intelligence man. He can confirm that Uncle Kessler was a war criminal, though it is all completely baffling to Leo. Americans have been characterized as gullible rubes out of their element for decades, but little have they been more blithely unconcerned than Leo, who goes back to his job on what gradually looks like his own customized death train.

The story is told in a purposely uncoordinated manner by the film's Danish director, Lars Von Trier, whose anchor is in the film's breathtaking editing and cinematography. He shoots in black and white and color, he uses double-exposures, optical effects and trick photography, having actors interact with rear-projected footage, he places his characters inside a richly shaded visceral world so that they sometimes feel like insects, caught between glass for our more precise survey.

This Grand Jury Prize-winning surrealist work is allegorical, but maybe in a distinct tone for every viewer. I interpret it as a film about the last legs of Nazism, symbolized by the train, and the ethical accountability of Americans and others who appeared too late to salvage the martyrs of these trains and the camps where they distributed their condemned shiploads. During the time frame of the movie, and the Nazi state, and such significance to the train, are dead, but like decapitated chickens they persist in jolting through their reflexes.

The characters, music, dialogue, and plot are deliberately hammy and almost satirically procured from film noir conventions. The most entrancing points in the movie are the entirely cinematographic ones. Two trains halting back and forth, Barr on one and Sukowa on another. An underwater shot of proliferating blood. An uncommonly expressive sequence on what it must be like to drown. And most metaphysically affecting of all, an anesthetic shot of train tracks, as Max von Sydow's voice allures us to hark back to Europe with him, and abandon our personal restraint.

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