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Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Europa (Zentropa) (1991)

Europa (Zentropa) (1991)

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Released 5-Apr-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Featurette-Making Of-The Making of Europa
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Anecdotes from Europa
Theatrical Trailer
DVD Credits
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1991
Running Time 107:21 (Case: 112)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:46) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Lars von Trier
Accent Film Entertainment Starring Jean-Marc Barr
Barbara Sukowa
Udo Kier
Ernst-Hugo Järegård
Erik Mørk
Jørgen Reenberg
Henning Jensen
Eddie Constantine
Max Von Sydow
Benny Poulsen
Erno Müller
Dietrich Kuhlbrodt
Michael Phillip Simpson
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $34.95 Music Joachim Holbek

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0
German Dolby Digital 2.0
Danish Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
French Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Wearing his influences on his sleeve, Lars von Trier claimed when filming Europa to be aiming for a Hitchcock atmosphere in a Tarkovsky setting. Often labelled von Trier's most "accessible" film (an insulting description for the Dane, no doubt), Europa achieves the desired blend of noir tension and timeless decay, and balances an engaging narrative with the director's penchant for foregrounding film technique. Perhaps in response to the relative success of Europa, von Trier immediately moved on to alienating levels of experimentation with the Dogme manifesto, and films like Dancer in the Dark and Dogville. Whatever place Europa holds in von Trier's development as a filmmaker (for better or for worse), the film's narrative and technical elements combine in a disturbing and affecting experience that, although derivative in some ways, ought not be missed.

    All of von Trier's films examine in some way the dangers of naive idealism to both the idealist and those with whom he or she interacts. His later films in the Golden Heart and USA trilogies focus on "feminine" idealism, while Europa and the other films of the Europe Trilogy follow masculine naivety. Europa takes place in the rubble and ruins of post World War II Germany. German-American Leo Kessler (Jean-Marc Barr) hopes to assist in the rebuilding by taking up a position, arranged by his uncle (Ernst-Hugo Järegård), as a night conductor on Zentropa Rail. Kessler believes he can remain neutral as Nazi sympathizers are rounded up while underground groups do their best to undermine the Allied presence in Germany. When Kessler becomes involved with Katharina Hartmann (Barbara Sukowa), daughter of Zentropa owner and Nazi sympathiser Max Hartmann (Jørgen Reenberg), he finds himself being manipulated by both the Allied forces and the Werewolves, an underground guerrilla group with shadowy connections to the Hartmann family. The tension mounts as Kessler is forced to take a stand for one side or the other, while dealing with the everyday absurdities of railway rules and regulations.

    To reveal any more of the plot would do some disservice to the first time viewer; still, it is obvious from the beginning that things will go drastically wrong as a direct result of Kessler's idealism. Beyond this, however, there are several extra layers worked over what could otherwise be considered a fairly pedestrian and melodramatic plot. Von Trier continues his exploration of hypnosis begun in his previous film, Epidemic - as the film opens, Max von Sydow's sonorous voice steadily counts the viewer into a trance. His voice carries an uncanny tone, eerily familiar yet distressing alien, that creates a dreamlike atmosphere continued throughout the film as he addresses the viewer directly. There is something distinctly disturbing about being hypnotised to take Kessler's place.

    The distinct visual style of the film only adds to the oneiric effect. Shot in black and white, the ruined landscape presents a stark quality that, combined with the absurdism of railway propriety and tradition, presents a finely tuned Kafaesque nightmare world. Emotionally charged scenes appear in sudden colour, redolent of lush cinematography of 1950s melodramas (Douglas Sirk's films for example). Most interestingly, for the vast majority of the film von Trier shot the backgrounds separately on location in Poland before having his actors perform in front of the projected images in Copenhagen studios. This layering - scenes may incorporate up to fifteen different layers - deepens the feeling of irreality. If you were put off by von Trier's highly visible experimentation in films like Dogville, don't distress - his technical experimentation is very subtle in Europa and doesn't draw undue attention to itself. The cinematography is, in fact, gorgeous, the combined efforts of Henning Bendsten, Jean-Paul Meurisse, and Edward Klosinsky in Poland. If nothing else, Europa's imagery is beautifully realised by these three.

    Von Trier has pulled off a significant feat, bringing all of these elements together to form such a beautiful, disturbing, and challenging film. Europa can be viewed on multiple levels; as a political indictment of American foreign policy, a war-time thriller, Kafkaesque nightmare, or an exercise in technical film experimentation. It's not quite the raw experience of von Trier's later films and for this reason might be more palatable for some. Love him or hate him, though, this is one von Trier film I would readily recommend for all tastes in film.

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Transfer Quality


    Áccent's release of Europa is a direct port from the excellent Electric Parc release of The Europe Trilogy (see Region Comparison for further information). If you've heard anything about that release you'll know you're in for treat. Áccent can always be trusted to produce a great transfer and combining their excellence with Electric Parc has delivered video nothing short of superb.

    The film is presented in its original aspect ration of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    Europa has received some excellent restoration work and appears every bit the equal of films produced and transferred to DVD in more recent times. The entire film takes place (and was shot) during the night and the darkness might have caused all sorts of headaches for the transfer. It all shows up crisp and clear, however, with deep blacks and striking shadow detail. Thankfully, the sharpness is not had at the price of boosted contrast: there is no edge enhancement at all. von Trier's method of filming actors in front of rear-projected sets creates an intentional softness in the image, invoking the rich visuals of soft-focus melodramas. Film grain is ever present, but is part of von Trier's vision for Europa and has been handled without compression issues.

    Much of the film was shot in black and white, with sepia and coloured elements inserted at key moments. I noticed no instances of colour bleeding.

    I couldn't see anything in the way of MPEG artefacts at all. Some minor instances of dirt can be seen. Overall, this transfer is practically perfect.

    Numerous subtitles are included, for both the film and commentaries, and are presented in a white font. They are very readable without distracting from the important imagery. The film is divided into thirteen chapters and the layer change occurs at 66:46. It is placed poorly in the middle of a scene and may be disruptive on some players, but was transparent on my system.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is also of excellent quality. Included are an English Dolby Digital 2.0 (surround encoded) track (default), the English audio remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 dub, and two audio commentaries in Dolby Digital 2.0. All are very well transferred, although the German dub sounds the least of the five. 2.0 default: quite a lot of depth to it, very centre focused. 5.1 a little more spatial, less boomy on von Sydow's voice, a little in the rears.

    Dialogue quality is excellent in both English tracks. Max von Sydow's narration, for example, has impressive depth but sounds a little boomy in the 2.0 track. All other voices are audible. There is no hiss or crackle, and nothing in the way of audio artefacts in either English track. Audio sync is accurate.

    Dialogue is perhaps the most important element of the soundtrack and for the most part the audio is focused in the centre speaker. The 5.1 track has better dispersion than the 2.0 audio which is very centre focused. Both tracks carry the ambient sounds of the train tracks in the rears which also support the score. Neither track is overly active in the surround department, but the subtle ambience adds much to the experience.

    The subwoofer remains quite active throughout both tracks, supporting the rumble of trains and, as noted above, von Sydow's narration. Both tracks have equal bass depth, but I felt that the 2.0 audio sounded a little "boomy."

    The score for Europa was composed by Joakim Holbeck, who has also worked on von Trier's Riget and Manderlay. Consisting of lush, melodramatic strings and bombastic and full orchestral passages, the score suits the on-screen action and von Trier's intent perfectly. The score builds to the final "Europa Aria", played over the closing credits. The score is deliberately overboard and hyperbolic, but still works for me as a memorable piece of music in its own right.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Featurette-Making Of

    The Making of Europa (38:57) - Full Frame (4x3); Audio: English (and Danish). Subtitles: English, Danish, German, French, Dutch. 1991.

    A very detailed and informative documentary covering von Trier's inspiration for the film, the intricate filming and casting process, and includes plentiful interview footage. The documentary also goes into some detail on the connections between Europa and von Trier's first two films in the so-called Europe Trilogy, The Element of Crime and Epidemic. This documentary is well worth watching, particularly to see how the film was shot and put together. Audio is a little poor, showing audio pops and clicks, dropouts, hiss and muffled sound. Video is acceptable, but is non-progressive and shows a good deal of combing. Be warned that the documentary gives away important plot points and the film's ending.

Interviews-Cast and Crew

    Anecdotes from Europa (20:35) - Full Frame (4x3) Audio: English (and Danish). Subtitles: English, Danish, German, French, Dutch.

    Interview footage includes von Trier writer Peter Schepelern; Jean-Marc Barr; producer Peter Aalbæk Jensen; von Trier's writing collaborator Niels Vørsel and others relating their recollections of the filming process of Europa. Filmed especially for the Electric Parc production, the featurette is well made, but not nearly as informative or rewatchable as the older documentary.

Audio Commentary

    Two audio commentaries are selectable from the "Sound" menu:

    Audio Commentary (Director Lars von Trier and Producer Peter Aalbæk Jensen) - Danish. Subtitles: English, German, French, Dutch.

    Discusses production, the difficulty of raising funding, and all manner of technical details. The participants have good rapport, and both recall all sorts of interesting facts about production making the commentary well worth the investment of time.

    Selected Audio Commentary (Lars von Trier, and actors Jean-Marc Barr and Udo Kier).

    This second commentary is full of long silences. To compensate a little, the commentary is divided into scenes on the audio commentary menu, each individually selectable.

  • The Opening: (approx. 11 mins)
  • The Train: (approx. 7 mins)
  • Eddie Constantine: (approx. 11 mins)
  • The Teacher: (approx. 10 mins)
  • The Love Scene: (approx. 10 mins)
  • The Church: (approx. 18 mins)
  • The Bomb: (approx. 6 mins)
  • The End: (approx. 19 mins)

        After selecting the scenes above, you will be returned to the menu at the end of each. Even when listening to the commentary in this form, there are still extended silences. Frankly, though, this commentary can be skipped completely: it consists of laughter and asinine comments along the lines of "Check that out!"; "Wasn't he excellent", and so on. The first commentary would have been more than satisfactory on its own, and this second effort only cheapens an excellent package.

    Theatrical Trailer

        (2:35) - 16x9 enhanced. Subtitles: English, Danish, German, French, Dutch.Audio dropout and clicks are present but the video has had some restoration on par with the main feature. The trailer gives away a little too much of the plot.

    R4 vs R1

    NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

        The Region 4 release is a direct port of the Electric Parc Region 2 release. That release however includes Europa as part of Lars von Trier's Europe Trilogy: 4 Disc Hypnotic Edition. Alongside Element of Crime and Epidemic (both forthcoming from Áccent), the release includes a fourth disc of approximately 275 minutes of extra features. I have not yet confirmed whether we will see these extras in Region 4: it is possible that after the single release of each film Áccent will release the entire trilogy package. I very much hope they do, or we will miss out on the following documentaries:

  • "A Conversation with Lars von Trier"
  • "Trier's Elements"
  • "Portrait of Lars von Trier"
  • "One Day with Peter Aalbaek"
  • "Im Laboratorium des Doktors von Trier"
  • "Lars von Trier Anecdotes"
  • "Interviews"
  • "Europa - The Faecal Location"
  • "Tom Elling - Storyboarding Element of Crime"
  • "Joachim Holbeck: The Emotional Music Script for Europa"
  • "Henning Bendsten: From Dreyer to von Trier"
  • Plus trailers for von Trier's films, a Europa promo and a 16 page booklet.

        Tartan has released the package (identically) in the UK. The package is also available in other European markets. Europa is currently unavailable in Region 1.

        Until Region 4 receives the entire Electric Parc package, Region 2 comes out on top. The local release is excellent though if you can do without all of those special features.

    EDIT: As confirmed below, Accent will be releasing the full Europe Trilogy set. I would recomend waiting for the local release, giving Accent the support they greatly deserve.


        Europa is one of Lars von Trier's best films to date; eerie yet beautiful, challenging but enjoyable on multiple levels.

        The video transfer is stunning.

        The audio transfer is also excellent.

        The extras are substantial and informative.

    There is an Official Distributor Comment available for this review.

    Ratings (out of 5)


    © Adam Atkinson (read my bio)
    Thursday, August 10, 2006
    Review Equipment
    DVDSony DVP-S336, using Component output
    DisplayLG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
    AmplificationYamaha RX-V357
    SpeakersDB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR

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