Zentropa is as muddled as it is stylized.
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Von Trier and his three cinematographers fashioned a handmade, retro pastiche with a small, dried-out heart.
It's an obscure experience, partly alienating, partly enthralling; it weaves a spell that is frightening, irritating and invigorating all at once.
In the end, Zentropa is above all unique in its radical take on the inherent confusion of postwar Europe, offering the viewer a glimpse like none he has had before.
Von Trier is undeniably talented, but Zentropa, which won the 1991 Jury Prize at Cannes, comes across mostly as an exercise in pseudo-profundity. It’s got more metaphors than it knows what to do with.
The film is too confusing to be successful, but too striking and visually beautiful to be ignored.
Europa has been described as a Kafka-esque fever dream, and while that isn't inaccurate, it's also a cover for the film's confounding narrative, which wends through murky noir plotting, a polyglot of accents and performance styles, and surreal interludes. The best approach is not to puzzle too much over the details, and to marvel at von Trier's technical wizardry, which re-imagines the period through a patchwork of vivid impressions.
Although the actual story of Zentropa is the stuff of an ordinary thriller, that plot is the only conventional aspect of a film that is an almost impudently flashy and knowing exercise in post-modern cinematic expressionism.
Labyrintine and hypnotic, there's undoubtedly more style than substance to the film, but Von Trier manages to blind and bewilder his audience in a truly masterful manner.