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All Movie Guide -Lars von Trier's The Element of Crime is a cerebral, postmodern, well-conceived, and beautifully shot film. But for all of its cleverness and its striking imagery, it's strangely unsatisfying. After making this film, and the equally stylized but more entertaining Zentropa, von Trier eventually moved on to co-found the Dogme movement. After making The Element of Crime, it would be understandable if the filmmaker felt he'd exhausted the possibilities of this kind of cinema. The Element of Crime's vaguely sci-fi premise is reminiscent of other postmodern science fiction
oirs like Alphaville and Blade Runner, and presages the geometrically motivated serial killer and color-coded dystopia in Alex Cox's Death and the Compass. This film's carefully composed images, strange color scheme, and amusingly self-conscious voice-over couldn't be further from Dogme. While it's fairly fascinating, sporadically funny, and intellectually engaging, it all seems more like an elaborate mind game than a story, and it's completely devoid of emotional weight. Von Trier is comically aware of the film's shaky plotting. The hypnotist (Ahmed El Shenawi) reminds his meandering narrator, Fisher (Michael Elphick), early on in the film, "The story, what is the story?" and he could just as well ask it again at the end. Von Trier mined richer emotional ground in his later films, and while his sincerity will probably always be questioned, few would disagree that his post-Dogme work has more raw emotional power. The Element of Crime is impressive filmmaking, but it's very cold.