Did Alien 3 rip-off The Element of Crime?

Did Alien 3 rip-off The Element of Crime?

Scified2017-03-14 14:42:40https://www.scified.com/articles/did-alien-3-rip-off-the-element-crime-11.jpg
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In 1984, Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier (Melancholia, Dogville) began his directorial career with The Element of Crime, his first feature film.

In short, The Element of Crime is an art house film. A detective undergoes hypnosis to recollect his final murder case in a surreal expressionist Europe, his memories drenched in rusted sepia. With quizzical dialogue and lengthy, picturesque compositions, The Element of Crime is a fascinating exploration of the post-war human psyche.

But upon closer examination, one realizes that this film shares an uncanny resemblance to Alien 3! Furthermore, this was a production eight years prior to David Fincher's directorial debut!


In an interview, the film's director, Lars von Trier, spoke of the similarities.

Of course it would be nice if somebody would use some of these little things that I've been experimenting with. But I'm sure film changes rather quickly. You know I saw Alien 3 recently and it looked exactly like "The Element of Crime" - the locations whatever exactly the same. And I don't know how much ten years or so between. So you know everything changes all the time. And yeah, it would be fine if they used it in changing things.

From industrial landscapes to characters falling from great heights, one must ask if David Fincher watched The Element of Crime. But what exactly motivated him to imitate so much of the film's imagery?

In the comments below, please express your thoughts on the matter!


Written by FacehuggersPublished on 2017-03-14 14:42:40
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7 Fan responses to Did Alien 3 rip-off The Element of Crime?


ConversationalistMember1234 XPMar-14-2017 3:29 PM

Not sure rip-off is the right word since the films seems quite different (based on the Wikipedia synopsis).  However Paul McGann talks about Fincher mimicking and framing based on other films and directors.  So it wouldn't surprise me at all if Fincher had seen Element of Crime.

Lady Anne

InitiateMember202 XPMar-14-2017 5:22 PM

I would definitely say it was an omagh to Element of a Crime. Different story, same imagery and basic colors. To say Fincher "stole" from it I can't agree with as he was hounded nonstop by the studio from the moment he showed up - poor guy didn't have time to think for himself for 5 seconds without being bothered! So yes, he probably did in the back of his mind, subconsciously hit some of the themes from Element of a Crime, but I think that's where it ends as they're two completely different movies. Also, there's truly nothing original left if you want to really get picky about it from movies to music to tv. But that's just how I see it. Apologies for bad spelling! Lady Anne ^^ö^^ 


NoobMember39 XPMar-14-2017 6:20 PM

Nice catch!

There is no arguing the common elements.

I found this review that compared EoC to Fincher's 'Se7en'.

Perhaps Fincher had not fully exorcised those elements in A3 and carried them forward to further chilling effect...


RespectedMember1984 XPMar-14-2017 7:35 PM

Awesome comments guys, I love hearing your say on this!

I agree that due to the incredible pressure exerted from producers/studios, Fincher resorted to imitating the success of other visual styles (The Element of Crime in particular). Both von Trier and Fincher do share a fascination with the twisted and emotional!

As said before, ALIEN 3 might very well have been a sort of 'practice' for future EoC-inspired projects, like Se7en!

Gee W

InitiateMember141 XPMar-15-2017 1:02 AM

There are some similarities, but I think they are homages at best. The rusty/yellow color scheme of Alien 3 could just as easily have been inspired by Vincent Ward's original wooden planet idea. And people jumping from high places is hardly something Von Trier invented, it could just be coincidence. I'm sure Fincher took inspiration from film makers he admires, as do all film makers I imagine, but to call that a rip-off is way too strong.


RespectedMember1984 XPMar-15-2017 1:19 PM

By the way, both films featured an autopsy on a young girl. 


NoobMember6 XPMay-07-2017 6:14 AM

Well, I suppose I'm sticking with the idea that Fincher was interested in the work of Tarkovsky , that would have been interested in including elements of abstract oneiric themes in Alien 3 relating to Tarkovksy and Element of Crime helped him to play with those ideas.

He would have possibly known as an artmovie fan that Lars Von Trier's "Element of Crime" was inspired by Tarkovksy and Blade Runner. As it happens Alien 3 had Blade Runner's cinematographer at the beginning until he was forced to step out.

Element of Crime appears also to have borrowed from Apocalypse Now, which is another thing that was running through Fincher's mind when he was planning Alien 3. But I like the way that one of the Prisoner's reaches into a hole where the young alien is and his life comes to an end, and the lead character in Element of Crime reaches into a hole and there's a bush baby, and then the story comes to an end.

I like the way that in Element of Crime there are lit lightbulbs abstractly stuck in the ground and there are strips of small lights to be seen along the beach in Alien 3.

But I think that Alien 3 that softly plays on ideas from Element of Crime as if it's Trier's movie lurks beneath the surface of Alien 3 and numerous similarities that could continue to plague other people's mind. 

Trier's movies would also become something that seemed to inspire elements of Alien Resurrection later on. I'm almost sure that Jeunet admitted it in an interview.

Of course here's my report so far from two years ago, which you've already linked with the interview snippet. http://alienexplorations.blogspot.co.uk/1992/05/odd-similarities-between-element-of.html

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