On Lars von Trier’s The Element of Crime

By Richard Jonathan


In Sprague’s list of his ten favourite films that he gives Marietta as she leaves him, The Element of Crime  is number 9.

Lars von Trier as Schmuck of Ages

T is for Trier, Lars von Trier: the most exciting filmmaker of the past thirty years—and more.

H is for herring (red), horse (dead) and hero (in bed).

E is for energy: the fire that transforms vision and craft, intelligence and grace, into art.

Michael Elphick as Fisher

Meme Lai as Kim

E is for elemental: earth, air, fire and water; humus, breath, spirit and flesh.

L is for light: the sodium that sulphurs Element into otherness.

E is for eros: the force that humanizes as it animalizes, giving the artist the tension he needs to walk the highwire.

M is for manifesto: a filmmaker declaring his intentions over and against mediocrity.

E is for ecstatic: the hypnotic transport of the spectator out of the everyday.

N is for night: the womb of creation.

T is for time: the work of art timeless because made as if there’d be no tomorrow.

O is for opening: the closed circle whose constraints open out the possible.

F is for fucking: Fisher fucking Kim over the Beetle bonnet while she moves the windshield wipers to his thrusting rhythm: sexual representation as negotiation between the ridiculous and the sublime.

C is for child: the dignity of potential.

R is for resistance and renewal: the honesty of the artist who lives outside the law.

I is for individual: the daring of Dionysus, the affirmation of desire.

M is for music: film as form, the primal song, the place a man belongs when he belongs nowhere.

E is for Europe: the arrow of ambivalence through its German heart.