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ZENTROPA

Denmark, 1991 (MIFF 1992)

Director: Lars von Trier

Zentropa, the most dazzling film seen at Cannes for years, is a trip along the twin scenic routes of myth and history. It's about a journey of illusion that provides lightning glimpses, from a darkling parallel track, of the reality-track humanity so often leaves behind — especially when rebuilding the social-politi­cal infrastructure after a world war.

The film is about the present thinly dis­guised as the past. The "Europe 1945" setting vouchsafes a continent in chaos searching for unity, just like Europe 1991 pre-federalization. And the film is also about the USA then and now. The postwar world's policeman-peace­keeper, embodied in an American hero played with goofball sweetness by Jean-Marc Barr, is a one-man walking Marshall Plan.

The tongue-in-cheek all-inclusiveness of the story and setting conveys itself to the style. Zentropa is a film so extravagantly playful that it seems like a fire-sale of postmodernist tropes. Strewn with narrative non-sequiturs and casual apocalypses, it is to postwar Europe what Twin Peaks is to small-town America. Its lexicon of visual artifices — front and back projection, colour-and-monochrome mixes, surrealist sets, Wellesian shots in which the camera threads the unthreadable — suggests that von Trier has studied every breakthrough-baroque film from Citizen Kane to Blue Velvet via Vertigo, and refused to tuck their ornate influences

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