Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Allan De Waal, Ole Ernst, Michael Gelting, Colin Gilder, Svend Ali Hamann
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
From controversial director Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves, Dogville, Dancer in the Dark) comes the bizarre story of a director (played by von Trier himself) and a writer who create a script about a mysterious plague t... more »
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Crossing the boundaries of fact and fiction
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 02/10/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While not Lars von Trier's first feature film, Epidemic is the earliest of his films to be released to DVD and it's a powerful piece of work that blasts wide open the conventions of film--even modern (i.e., as of 1987, when this film was released) ones.
The title refers to a script that Lars and Niels Vorsel are in the process of writing during the film itself, after their first collaborative script, The Cop and the Whore, gets accidentally trashed in a PC crash.
Some interesting markers on the film:
1. shot in black and white
2. the title of the film is shown in red letters with a trademark symbol throughout the entire course of the film in the upper left corner
As these two develop their story, scenes alternate between the two of them--with their friends and acquaintances--and scenes they envision from the film Epidemic. In the film within a film, Lars plays Dr. Mesmer, whose name, of course, evokes that of the famed 19th century hypnotist, but the character is 20th century; in one scene, we see him suspended from a helicopter. Also in the film within a film is an American black priest. The language of the entire film alternates between English and Danish; the priest speaks English and in one wacky scene, Niels reads a letter from an American teenage girl penpal in English, based on his deciding to have some "fun" (if that's what it could be called) by spoofing pen pal correspondence, writing to 70 teenage American girls and pretending to be a Danish teenaged boy.
If this sounds disjointed, from one perspective, it is that, yes. But what it also does is to establish a jarring juxtaposition of mundane day to day life with the horrific story the two filmmakers are developing. The priest, for example, is consumed with fear about which he is mortally ashamed--fear of the plague epidemic that is spreading like wildfire across Europe--and voices that fear and shame in alternating whispered speech and anguished screaming, as he himself succumbs.
Why did von Trier pick Mesmer as the name of the latter-day doctor in the film within a film? This relates to the last scene in the film itself which is a real shocker and will not be revealed here. This last scene brings to a boil all the elements previously presented, including a short stay in the hospital for Neils who undergoes minor surgery to remove some undesirable growths.
What makes this film so powerful, among other things, is how easily von Trier plays with reality and fiction. We know that Lars and Neils are the real names of the people playing these characters, as is true of all the other characters who appear in the scenes with Lars and Neils. We know that Lars has a strong and morbid fascination with things medical, and this is reflected both in his interests expressed in the film itself, and his portrayal of Dr. Mesmer in the film within a film. And, subtly, we know that Lars and Neils' perspective embraces more than just Denmark, but other parts of Europe--France (love of wine), Germany (a side trip in one scene), and other countries--as well as the U.S. Any conjuring up of an epidemic has to imply a huge territory of possible infection; with the references to several other countries, von Trier is saying that this infection is really modern life itself which gives us the ability to appreciate sensory experience but not much else. And which spreads, plaguelike, to all, regardless of name, nationality, position, occupation, self-image.
Maybe this last statement is pompous; maybe not. In spite of the potentially annoying ever-present logo in the upper left corner of the screen, this is a film that uses the intellect to deliver a one-two punch to most of your cinematic expectations. And watch out for the ending; it will leave you breathless (no reference to Godard here, just an observation).
Film was amazing...
One_Amoung_the_Fence | 02/27/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The movie itself is very unique and original. I absolutely loved it. The switch from 16mm grainy footage to moments of 35mm beauty was just spectacualr, and the narrative the film tells was very intriguing. Most people that I have talk to that have seen this were put down by the red watermark in the upper right hand corner of the film, but I found that it added a whole new level to the film. The watermark appears when the word "Epidemic" is being typed on the cover page of a script that Lars and Neils are working on, and stays mostly visible throughout the film to signify that what you are viewing is the screenplay (or is it? :D) It works for me. The plot takes enough meaningful sharp lefts that it stayed very interesting and kept me asking "Where is this going?" but in a good way.
And that ending...just so freaking awesome. To me, it makes the film worth watching (setting aside the relatively slow pacing at times).
The only thing I have against the film is the song that plays for the end credits...it is so terrible. I mean, if Trier's purpose for the song was to bring the audience out of the experience that the film throws you into, then he achieved his goal. Right after that amazing finale, I was letting the movie sink in, and wating for the credits, and this horrible pop theme song for the film begins playing. I almost shed tears of disappointment. That set aside, the movie, as a whole, is just awesome.
Word to the wise: Take the movie out after it is over, and don't wait for the credits to role..."