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Denmark | 1991 | 112 min | dir: Lars von Trier

Europa A strange, haunting, labyrinthine film about a naive American in Germany just after the end of World War II. The American, named Leo, doesn't quite know what he's doing there; he has come to take a role in rebuilding the country because, he explains, it's about time Germany was shown some kindness.

No matter how that sounds, he is not a Nazi sympathizer or even particularly pro-German - just confused. His uncle, who works on the railroad, gets Leo a job as a conductor on a Pullman car, and he is gradually drawn into a whirlpool of Germany's shames and secrets. The narrative is told in a deliberately disjointed style by the film's Danish director, Lars Von Trier, whose strength is in the film's astonishing visuals.

He shoots in black and white and color, he uses double-exposures, optical effects and trick photography, he places his characters inside a many-layered visual universe so that they sometimes seem like insects, caught between glass for our closer examination. The movie is symbolic, although perhaps in a different way for every viewerPerhaps a film about the death throes of Nazism, which is represented by the train, and the moral culpability of Americans and others who turned up too late to save the victims of these trains and the camps where they delivered their doomed human cargo.

The train, and the Nazi state, are dead, but like cartoon figures they continue to jerk through their motions; the message from the brain has not reached the body. Many of the special-effects sequences are computer enhanced, but even the “live” scenes have an unsettling, surreal quality to them (colors changing abruptly, backgrounds shifting without warning, etc.).

Courtesy of The DANISH EMBASSY of South Africa

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