Another effort from Lars von Trier from 1987, this is one of those films that half breaks the fourth wall, featuring Von Trier and real life o writer Neils Vorsel as themselves writing a last minute script to replace one that took them a year and a half to write which they have just lost to as computer virus (I hate it when that happens). They then also take part in this second narrative, the action switching between the two scenarios as the film progresses. Whilst the thought of this switching of narratives might be instantly of putting for some, don’t let it , the narratives are interwoven with great skill and neither manages to distract from or swamp the other. In fact they rather cleverly begin to complement each other in a nifty little piece of writing from the boys.
The film was originally made for a bet that Von Trier could shoot an entire movie for only a million Kroner and he managed this by spending expansively on the “scripted” sequences, giving them lush black and white photography and high, dreamlike in places, production values then shooting the material between the script writers in a paired down dogme style which serves to highlight the reality of the writer’s problems as well as helping to differentiate one narrative from the other.
The storyline they come up with and begin to appear in is for a film called “Epidemic” (is your brain hurting yet) in which Von Trier plays a doctor who is trying to halt the worldwide spread of a plague. Alas, he fails, only succeeding in spreading the disease further, illustrating how the writer’s original high ideals for their script have become corrupted and disease in themselves. It’s obviously a very personal piece with the two writers practically playing extensions of themselves in the “real world” narrative, adding in autobiographical details of their lives and giving a strange verisimilitude to their scenes together, though they can, as characters, but come across as being rather irritating at times.
Fantasy and reality start to become blurred towards the end of the movie as the fiction spills out into the writer’s world and the whole film starts to show Von Trier’s artistic and cinematic influences. I won’t spoil it by saying how the film ends or pretend that it’s an easy film to watch, Von Trier takes some getting used to, to an audience expecting Hollywood production values, but as always he manages to pull the rabbit out of the hat with an engaging and inventive storyline and some great guest performances which make the film more than worth watching, indeed one that can be returned to again and again.
Director: Lars von Trier
Cast: Lars von Trier, Niels Vorsel, Allan De Waal, Ole Ernst, Michael Gelting