I think I need a vacation from experimental film. Once I finish this review, I will fiddle with my Netflix list to remove the . . . let’s just leave it at experimental.
My latest romp into yet another idea cum crap film is Lars von Trier’s Epidemic. If I try to write the plot summary first, I will give the plot away—this structure will make sense if you decide to go that far. So the review will be backwards.
First, I don’t recommend it at all. I’ve watched experimental films for more than two decades now. I think I can pick out the artful from the okay attempt that is poorly executed from the truly pretentious. In this last category nearly every film certified as Dogma (alternately Dogme) 95 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogme_95). I literally just discovered that Lars von Trier is one of the originators of this terrible idea (like Schoenberg and his twelve-tone crap).
Epidemic is endemic of the rules of this cult: bad lighting, bad film, no rehearsal. In this case, the film quality is so bad it is hard to determine what was intended; it is so grainy that it appears that very high speed black and white film shot in normal lighting. The effect is as if you are watching an interrogation, but that isn’t even in the neighborhood of the vague themes.
There is no acting. In keeping with the religion, there is just talking. The camera generally only “focuses” on the person talking, but that’s it. There is no attempt at acting. The people “cast” are real actors, so why is it that they cannot or refuse to do what their trade demands? Dogma 95 films do have a plot (sometimes) but it is like being given an improv idea and told to go with it. Since most of acting is reacting, it should be something even passable actors could achieve. Either this is not true or this cast (see the IMDB site for the cast) really does suck.
There is nothing good, funny, interesting, literally it is a blank wall where you want to hang a jacket. At some point you find a hammer but never a nail.
Plot summary IS a plot spoiler
Epidemic is a meta-film. Two characters are to write a screenplay to be delivered the day after we begin seeing the “action”. They don’t have one despite being given a year and large sums of money. So they rush around their heads and come up with the idea. The idea is to write about a type of plague. From here there is a back and forth between the “writers” and their idea. The idea is a plague like one that struck in the 14th century in Sweden. The writers drive around a good deal finding out nothing (I’m not kidding). The writers create what is generally called a treatment (oddly fitting for the film—just an outline of a full film). Here the stories overlap and the plague that hits an unknown city at an unknown time now becomes a very virulent plague that infects and ends in the death of all people over at the writers’ house for dinner.
Yep, that’s it. Like Element of Crime another von Trier film I reviewed, I kept checking the time and seeing that it was about 20 minutes to the end. Then I would look up again at what I hoped was the 20 minute mark and the math still worked out to 20 minutes. I had far too much invested not to finish, but I would like to have the 3 hours of this experimental crap back.
Once again, I recommend this film to no one in perpetuity.
Other von Trier reviews of movies I didn't hate as much
Element of Crime (well I really hated this one too)
What did you think of this review?