Europa – Lars Von Trier – Set in a post WWII Germany, this film explores ideas of European and German identity searching for reconstruction in the consciously cinematic noir of its own haunted guilt and trauma. The film is predominantly in black and white with occasional shifts into colour, transitions that occur without obvious emotional or logical warning. The film restlessly jerks between experimentations in acting style and more visually integrated oddities – for instance actors will often become marooned against pre-recorded film projections, all of which creates a mesmerising and unsettling viewing experience. Its squalid noir shadows lurch uncomfortably between filmic parody, Orwellian atmospheres of faceless industry and the more unnervingly indelible memory of World War 2 – the atrocities that cannot be repressed.
I say ‘lurch,’ as the juddering train carriage becomes a central motif in the film’s narrative, again queasily evoking the shipping of bodies like cattle that facilitated the ‘final solution’. The film begins with blurred train tracks as the camera speeds into the dark, there is a scene in which the protagonist sprawls with his lover on a model train set and its miniature landscape, and, finally, the plot’s climax revolves around an attempt to stop a train – and becoming trapped: the carriage becoming a sunken tomb.
This is a visually bold and fascinating film, and while its dark subject matter becomes entangled, warped and trapped by the various cinematic techniques – this feels appropriate for a film that is exploring the slippery reparation of a national conscience (let alone its economic disrepair). It feels melodramatic (in a self-aware sense, drawing upon the language of schools of film acting), hallucinatory and claustrophobic, effectively communicating the essentially damaged and disturbed nature of its content. 8/10