At once a showman, a sadist, a provocateur, an egomaniac, and a visionary, Danish director Lars von Trier has a gift for commanding the world stage. Yet for all the radical gimmickry in his work–the sepia-tone in 1984's The Element Of Crime, the wild rear projection and superimposition in 1991's Zentropa, the 100-DV-camera musical sequences in 2000's Dancer In The Dark–his films are consistently resonant, bursting with passion, artistry, and high emotion. True to his reputation, at an early stage in his career, von Trier virtually declared himself the heir apparent to his countryman Carl Theodor Dreyer (The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, Ordet) with 1987's spare and powerful Medea, based on an unproduced script written by Dreyer and poet Preben Thomsen. In fact, von Trier went so far as to claim that he communed telepathically with Dreyer's spirit throughout the production, though his dominant and unmistakable sensibility spoils any pretense of fidelity to Dreyer's intent, in spite of their mutual interest in strong women and their tragic self-actualizations. By contrast with the childlike martyrs in Dancer and 1996's Breaking The Waves, Medea's anti-heroine takes a more active role in determining her fate, but her triumphs are the opposite of transcendent, because they negate the humanity within herself and the hollow, windswept landscapes around her. As the quintessential scorned woman, Kirsten Olesen plays Medea with a raw anguish that slowly chills into frost once she resolves to answer her horrible betrayal and loss. After benefiting from her sorcery and black magic, Medea's lover Jason (Udo Kier), the adventurer of Argonauts and Golden Fleece fame, abandons her and their two sons for a politically advantageous marriage to King Kreon's silly young daughter Glauce (Ludmilla Glinska). Faced with exile from the kingdom, Olesen exacts vicious and total revenge against Kier, culminating in a shocking act that testifies to her all-consuming madness and rage. A master at accessing base emotions, von Trier scrapes Euripides' tale down to its barest elements, trading some psychological insight for the raw feelings expressed by his actors and an arid visual palette, which at times suggests the murky terrain of a sorceress and at others the absence of meaningful life. Shooting brilliantly on video, von Trier turns the form's liabilities into assets, making up for the low depth-of-field by plastering his characters against abstracted backdrops and deliberately washing out the colors into an evocative yellow haze. Cut together like a series of expressionist paintings, Medea ends with a haunting final sequence that honors Dreyer's austerity, even though the film doesn't follow him to the letter.