Cover Art and Menu: 6/10
The cover is misleading at it’s worst, but very intriguing at it’s best. It tries to reflect a more traditional promise of a horror flick waiting to scare the be-Jesus out of you but the eye catching graphic does not live up to that promise, not even close. Conceptually the film delivers a creepy and overwhelming idea that a horrific plague is overtaking the world, but are our minds skilled enough to fill in the gaps where the film itself leaves off? It isn’t scary, bloody, shocking, or even mildly gory. Which is all fine with me, movies that take mind over matter to a new level are respectable of course, but covers that draw you in with one a false impression are kind of annoying no matter how cool they are.

Extras and Features: 7/10

  • Director Filmography
  • Audio Commentary by Lars von Trier & Niels Vorsel – A good chance to hear von Trier laugh at many moments in the film. He points out the low budget techniques they used for everything from casting to lighting. He and filmmaker co-hort Niels Vorsel even laugh at their own acting and at the fact that this movie got distributed at all. Von Trier points out things like they used a real hypnotist in the end sequence, and that the ever present EPIDEMIC logo that NEVER goes away throughout the film cost more than the entire movie did to have processed.
  • Documentary Free Dogme – A conference video call connecting four prominent filmmakers discussing the changes in technology and how it has effected cinema. It’s an excellent educational tid bit. It’s a fascinating filmmaking experiment that follows the “Vows of Chastity” of the Dogme film movement. (Epidemic is NOT a Dogme film) Lars von Triers wrote the vows and is obviously instrumental to many fellow filmmakers’ inspiration in their work over the past decade. This is a 60 minute extra that adds a lot to this particular DVD experience. I’m a sponge when it comes to learning about films and how they are made, not to mention how filmmakers see the world, so this is a custom made bonus for me:)
  • Directors Statement – Written statement from director von Trier that comes as an insert in the box.

The Movie: 6/10:

Taking a journey down the road to understanding art films is as equally challenging as lifting the fog on who to vote for in a presidential election. Both have a mysterious shadow hanging over them that seems to shield most of us from what is really going on. Only those with a certain kind of perspective, whether it be a chemically induced haze, or brainwashed devotion to the person at the helm (the director or the candidate) can reveal all the qualities hidden in each fuzzy frame or propagandized speech. But then the phoenix rises rises from the ashes of my confusion and all is clear; art movies and elections do serious damage to the synapses in my brain. During either experience they are firing off so rapidly trying to figure out every little nuance, every little detail it’s like being on a Tilt-a-whirl and the guy in charge goes to lunch, for about seven hours. Confusion people, that’s what I’m talking about.

I’m not saying I don’t like films like Epidemic, I actually find the experience very stimulating, and exciting. Even though I LOVE movies, I do get somewhat bored with the same old formulas time and time again. Boy meets girl, stuff blows up, mysteries solved, etc. To watch a film that makes me kind of feel like an idiot is a good thing, once in a while.

Why would this movie make me feel like an idiot? Well, I’m the artsy type, right? I love the art world, art people, the whole chaotic ambience of the life, the attitude, the essence of being in the bowels of a creative existence. However, as time ticks away in my slowly conforming lifestyle, I do lose track of my fading appreciation for abstract indulgences and art that borders on pretentious and artists who are a bit too self aware.

You might be thinking, “what the hell is she talking about?” Well, this movie is a project by director Lars von Trier, who also made Dancer in the Dark. (a fantastic film by the way) I’m not comparing. I find comparing movies to be kind of obnoxious. What I am doing is pointing out that von Trier has it in him to make a film that does not scream, “look at me, I’m an artsy guy, I’m a creative filmmaker, notice me, notice my filmmaking education and reliance on style and technique over substance and experience” Ok, that’s a bit harsh, but I have studied a bit about von Trier (the von is not part of his real name, he tagged that on some time ago) and I get the feeling that his personal phobias, life traumas, and seemingly natural neuroticism comes flooding out when he gets behind the camera.

Epidemic is written by, starring, and directed by von Trier. That’s not a problem, I’ve liked other movies with one person wearing many hats. The thing about Epidemic is that with all it’s style, technique, and attempt at delivering some kind of message, something falls flat for me. I do appreciate the different uses of light, camera handling, composition, the type of film used, and all the other tricks of the trade that von Trier tosses in the mix. After all, filmmaking is art and nothing is too out of bounds when it comes to how you deliver the visual experience to the audience. The problem is just that one little thing, there is no audience experience. I shouldn’t say that exactly. There are people who will see Epidemic and think it’s another offering from their film God, Trier. I’m not one of them.

Just like with art, I have always been one of those crazy people who thinks that it’s not all about the artist making the art. It’s about the whole “sharing your ideas with the world” vibe that I have prescribed to all these years. But hey, I’m not a professional artist, or filmmaker so I might be full of you-know-what. It’s just that films like Epidemic feel like they are purely meant to indulge the creator and bypass the “sharing your ideas with the world” thing.

Epidemic’s story is excellent. I love the concept. A pair of screenwriters are working on a script about a plague ravaging the world while, unbeknownst to them, a real life plague is about to hit Europe. The writers research their subject, following a trail of human misery through the centuries of plagues that have, ummm plagued the world. I don’t expect them to deliver the same kind of Hollywood blockbuster with big stars and flashy special effects. I can’t fault a filmmaker for taking their own route in telling their story. I just don’t feel like von Trier was so much telling us this intriguing story as he was playing with camera techniques, lighting, and film stock. Don’t be offended if you are of the mind that filmmaking is ALL about technique and that I’m just some poor slob who doesn’t “get it”. Don’t worry, I do understand the craft of making a film is more than pretty faces, fluffy plot lines, and high production values. I also understand that not all films are made for mass public consumption, which is a wonderful thing! Then again, I am a realist and the majority of people reading this review might not be as in love with Epidemic as film students or the ever-popular ostentatious art film crowd. In fact, I would hazard a guess that if you rent it and watch it upon my recommendation you might never read another one of my reviews again. We can’t have that can we?

There are parts of the film that were brilliant. In one scene they casually discuss something as awful as how the boils of infected people in their story would burst and what kind of fluids come out. They use a tube of toothpaste similar to AIM to see how they get the paste to come out in two different colors without mixing as they are discussing might happen in their film. Strange, yes, but an excellent moment I must say. I would describe other scenes that I particularly liked, such as the hypnotism sequence, but to be honest I don’t think I can put all the right words together to do them justice.

If you can get down and dirty with the creative act of making films as art and you are a serious Trier fan, this is a must see addition to his work. If you think of yourself as a movie lover but you know in the deepest reaches of your heart and soul that you don’t really like movies that are “weird” or “different” (I’m not using weird and different as four letter words here, I personally LOVE weird and different, but we all know people who use these term to politely describe things they do not like.) then Epidemic is not for you. Or maybe it is and you just don’t know it yet. Are you bold and brave and ready to stretch and broaden that horizon of yours? Cut your teeth on something like Adaptation, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Requiem for a Dream, or other amazing films that don’t fit in with the mainstream blockbuster crowd. After you dip that toe in the water of “weird and different” dive into Epidemic and see how it goes. You might love it, you might hate it, you might not understand it, but you will have sympathy for me writing a review for it…believe me, it ain’t easy!

Value: 6/10
$22.00 might be a well spent hunk of cash for a true von Trier fan, or a student of filmmaking. But then again, students might only be able to afford a rental 🙂 If you are wanting to try Epidemic I say rent it, that is if you can find it in your local rental shack.

Overall Score 6/10