DVD - 2008 | German
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Leo Kessler, an American of German descent, visits Germany in 1945. He works as a night conductor on the Zentropa Railway Line, owned by a Nazi sympathizer. Leo attempts to remain neutral to the ongoing purguing of loyalists by the Allied forces, but he falls in love with the railway magnate's daughter.
Publisher: [United States] : The Criterion Collection, c2008
Edition: Special ed. Widescreen ed
ISBN: 9781604651027
Branch Call Number: DVD
Characteristics: 2 videodiscs (107 min.) : sd., b&w and col. ; 4 3/4 in


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Oct 20, 2017

This is a film of rare achievement. The director uses wonderfully imaginative techniques to provide the surreal texture so necessary to the success of this bizarre tale. It is thought-provoking and deeply disturbing, perhaps the more so since it evokes a time within living memory when mankind was forced to confront the ultimate futility of our attempts to create a truly civilized world. It is a pity that this film is so obscure. Taken in the largest context, it raises many poignant questions about our future and is a very fine example of the film-makers art as well.

Jun 19, 2016

This is a 1991 Danish drama directed by Lars von Trier.
It is von Trier's third theatrical feature film and the final film in his Europa trilogy following "The Element of Crime (1984)" and "Epidemic (1987)."
Influenced by Franz Kafka's "Amerika", its title was chosen as an echo of that novel.
Leo Kessler, an American of German descent, visits Germany in 1945.
In US-occupied Germany, he takes on work as a sleeping car conductor for the Zentropa railway network owned by a Nazi sympathizer.
Falling in love with a femme fatale---the railway magnate's daughter, Leo becomes embroiled in a pro-Nazi terrorist conspiracy.
Although showing some kindness to the German people soon after the end of World War II, Leo attempts to remain neutral to the ongoing purguing of loyalists by the Allied forces.
With his mesmerizing and enchanting voice, Max von Sydow as the narrator takes you to a somewhat dream-like world of 1945 US-occupied Germany.
In a nutshell, it is a thought-provoking Kafkaesque drama.

Mar 06, 2016

After viewing the film, I viewed some of the supplementary material on the 2nd disc. I was astounded to find out that this was a very early Lars Von Trier film. There are so called art films. Well this is near the tops of art and imagination. Luckily for us, foreign directors such as Lars are not required to do only that which will produce a larger profit. One critic suggests the film reminds him of Hitchcock. Yeah, maybe, if Hitchcock were on LSD. The Europeans, knowing that Americans are largely ignorant of the rest of the world, added the hypnotic Max Von Sydow narration track to help the Americans along with cluing them a little to what is going on. The film reminds me of Sunrise, which often has a mix of different scenes on the screen at the same time (and lots of rear projection).

Dec 29, 2014

One of the MOST films in one's life. The story, the cinematography, the acting and...the message is breathtaking. It is a piece of art, no doubt.

Dec 05, 2014

Wanting to make the world a slightly better place Leopold Kessler, the American son of a German expat, travels back to his father’s homeland shortly after WWII in order to work. Meeting up with his uncle, a gruff and taciturn old goat who dislikes Americans as much as he mistrusts Germans, Leopold lands a job as a first class sleeping car conductor where he meets and falls in love with Katharina, the railway owner’s enigmatic daughter. But despite his desire to “show Germany a little kindness”, Katharina’s shady connections to the underground partisan movement eventually bring about a crisis of conscience in Leopold when he is forced to make a moral decision between two equally repugnant options. Filmed in hallucinatory B&W with occasional splashes of grainy colour, and using a variety of gaudy cinematic conceits from rear projection to macabre montages, Lars von Trier’s unflattering examination of Germany’s post-war mindset looks like the brainchild of Guy Maddin and David Lynch after the two had shared a few lines of coke. With Kafkaesque sets and dialogue centred on rules, regulations, and conformity, von Trier presents a defeated nation scrambling over its own ruins while bowing meekly to the Allied forces which now control it. Trains, always a powerful metaphor, are used to great effect here whether it be a couple destroying a toy railroad set with their desperate copulating or Leopold’s own train, formally employed at Auschwitz, now refurbished with carefully segregated compartments: wealthy industrialists and military brass to the front, huddling peasants in the middle, and a makeshift concentration camp in the rear where emaciated inmates stare blankly from behind iron bars and chickenwire. And despite the faux elegance of its first class accommodations, the tattered curtains and grimy windows reveal nothing but passing scenes of death and destruction. Finally, as if to overlay an element of dark psychodrama, Max von Sydow’s grim voiceover plays hypnotist to our hapless protagonist’s sad struggles. A dystopian mindf*ck and a fine example of what von Trier was capable of before he went off the deep end.

Feb 24, 2014

Thought provoking script about a young idealistic German American working as a railroad conductor who hoped to help the people in war torn Germany soon after World War II. Soon he fell for a German Werwolf heiress (Wikipedia: Werwolf was the name given to a Nazi plan, which began development in 1944, to create a commando force which would operate behind enemy lines as the Allies advanced through Germany itself) and had to choose between saving the life of the woman or committing a major crime, as the German people had to do during the Nazi regime. (Interesting B and W with occasional color frames; spolen mostly in German.)


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Feb 28, 2014

“Katharina Hartmann: ... they say a werewolf is only a werewolf during nights. In the day time, it's a human being. I know I can't make you understand what it is that makes a man turn into an animal (Germans followed Nazi doctrine in WWII) ... 'cause you don't accept that it ever happens ... I did what I have to do ... Everybody in this train has been through the war, just like me. You can't compare yourself to us (Idealistic American). Everybody has killed or betrayed directly or indirectly, hundreds of times, just to survive ...”

Feb 28, 2014

“Katharina. Hartmann (continued) : ... Look into their eyes and you see what I mean. --- Leo Kessler: Kate, you're talking about an awful crime (K. Hartmann ploted to have Leo to commit) ... --- K.H. : By the way, I see it is that you are the only criminal. --- L.K. : I haven't done anything. I'm not working for either side. --- K.H. : Exactly. --- (my take: A person who witnessed Nazi crimes while doing nothing per Dante "The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.")”


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