Sight and Sound - 11/01/2002
"...Kept afloat by von Trier's extraordinary visual flair..."
Danish director Lars von Trier's debut feature film--also his first English-language effort--is an extremely hypnotic, moody thriller. The story opens in the desert of Egypt, where police detective Leopold Fisher (Michael Elphick) is hypnotized and asked to recount the recent events of his life. It seems that Fisher has been called back to a small town where he has previously spent time in order to investigate the brutal murders of several little girls who sell lottery tickets. He reunites with his mentor, Osborne (Esmond Night), the writer of a controversial book entitled THE ELEMENT OF CRIME, in which he recommends that investigators adopt the point of view of killers in order to better predict subsequent tragedies. When Fisher meets Kim (Meme Lei), a beautiful young woman, the pair embarks on a journey that begins to blur the line between Fisher's simulated killer and the real thing.
Von Trier's film is a bold exercise in style, using hypnotism to support the slowly unfolding story. Visually, he soaks the film in a sepia tone, incorporating double exposures and super-8 footage to add even more stylish effect. The result is a deeply puzzling murder mystery that stands as an extremely bold directorial debut.
An inspector is called to find the killer of several little girls who sell Lotto tickets, using his former mentor's method of taking the killer's point of view. After meeting a mysterious woman and using a potential new victim as bait, the vicious killer is shockingly exposed. Lars von Trier's first English-language film is a stylish, eerie mood piece that confirms his place at the forefront of modern filmmakers.