Friday, December 7, 2012

The Nazi Canary in the Allied Coal Mine

Europa
1991.  112 minutes. Denmark. Directed by Lars von Trier. Watchdate: 7/16/2012.
Wow! I am certain this movie strikes a different chord now that Lars von Trier has publicly expressed sympathy (jokingly?) for der Führer. Until watching this movie, I had never really given any serious thought to Nazi dead-enders conspiring in Germany after the second world war ended.

It does make sense that there would have been some kind of violent political insurgency during the Allied occupation of Germany (not Iraq level, but something!). I'll give von Trier credit for provoking me to think about that peculiar historical footnote. And he either deserves great credit or a resounding demerit - I'm not sure which - for pressing me to even have just the barest modicum of sympathy for the purest evil that humanity has witnessed.

I have to acknowledge the movie's imagery - bizarre, haunting, elegiac, disturbing and occasionally even goofy - and certainly like very little else I have ever seen.  Also, I am quite surprised that just as with Melancholia, the movie is extremely funny in an off-kilter  deranged sort of way. Two of the three von Trier movies I have seen were actually quite playful and hilarious, giving the lie to his reputation as an extremely serious, arty director. In a way, this movie reminded me of the work of the Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin but with a slightly more pretentious axe to grind.

Finally, I must single out the surreal and wonderful performances of Eddie Constantine and especially Udo Kier. I first became familiar with Udo Kier's bravura work in the video game Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, in which he played a Soviet mind control svengali named Yuri. Here he shows he can play a human being, not just a cartoon, and manages to be even more haunting as a regretful ex-Nazi.

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