“It is a repulsive, perplexing piece of art” as described by the press notes of writer/director Lars Von Trier’s latest film “ANTICHRIST”. This would be the best way to describe this metaphysical journey as the film seems to have been made with the full intent to shock, sicken and dare the viewer to sit through the brutal acts of unreasonable violence and painstaking themes that taps into the depredation of the undone mind. This film is not for the squeamish but fans of Von Tier would marvel to his return his enticing confrontational appetites that blatantly exploit human suffering and misogyny to add to his visions and daydreams in a very disquieting manner.
The characters in “AntiChrist” are unnamed as we can only refer to the lead characters as a HE (Willem DaFoe) and SHE (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Von Tier begins the film with some very intense intercourse as their infant son crawls out of his crib to an open window and eventually fall to his death. Devastated, the couple feels that their sexual appetites have contributed to the death of their only child. SHE falls into deep depression and HE is a therapist who disagrees with the medical care given his wife. HE decides to take his own wife under his care and to take the devastated woman to their remote cabin in the woods. Once there, SHE’s consciousness begins to further fall into madness as the woods give her much more memories about their deceased son. The wife also begins to feed upon images in the research of witches as the husband tries to counter her ailing mind with logic and psychiatric training. The evil that lurks in the woods eventually begin to overcome SHE as she becomes a destructive force goaded by archaic instincts to defy his best efforts to cure her.
If anything, Von Trier’s desire to shock, unnerve and bring scenes of discomfort to his viewer is brutally effective. Most people would say that the film borders on challenging the borders of taste as the film has a lot of violence, sex, genital shots and full frontal nudity. It is very difficult to dissect this film without spoilers so I will try to avoid discussing many key scenes; the film’s main strength comes from its ability to make the viewer uncomfortable and the sensation of shock and surprise is crucial to its enjoyment (if you can call discomfort that way). Von Tier fills the screen with gothic imagery, unsettling atmosphere and sexual games to drive his theme of grief and depression. The film has a lot of symbolisms and metaphors; as the audience is drawn to Von Tier’s theatrics. “AntiChrist” may not match the intensity of “Dancing In the Dark” but the film still proves to be an intriguing piece of taxing surrealism and controversial undertone.
The film may become too cryptic for its own good and will prove too much to swallow for the inexperienced movie watcher. I am pretty open-minded and I revel in darkly twisted films but there were times that the screenplay taxed my brain as it felt a tad incoherent. It is an unrelenting journey to the deep end of the line; as we become privy to SHE and her descent into extreme madness. It does help as Von Tier divides the film into four chapters as he begins the film with an arresting, beautifully shot barren monochrome as to usher the misery that is to come. The film has a few symbolic entities such as “Grief”, “Pain” (chaos reigns), Despair (gynocide) and the “Three Beggars” that brings the depths of SHE and her quickly deteriorating sanity. The monochrome sequence stuns rather quickly as the audience is brought into a very graphic display of intercourse, (I’m not sure if there were body doubles but HE and SHE were really doing it and the film shows penetration) as it brings the audience in a dispiriting scene of tragedy. The film’s mood becomes more catastrophic from there.
Von Trier seems to represent his main characters as ORDER and NATURE. HE is very determined to pull his wife from the brink of chaos while SHE is a force of nature whose hysterical and increasingly deranged state appear natural and unstoppable. HE is determined to go to the depths of her psyche and SHE is determined to fight off this assault; it is obvious that the film is meant to shock as we see the mental conflict that rages between the two. SHE uses sexual favors and hysteria as she is tormented by the forest itself, fearing an evil that equals feminism itself, as explored in her Biblical thesis of the historical decline of women as ’agents of chaos’ when driven by forces unexpected and beyond control.
Scissors and stones meet genital areas as images of self-mutilation, torture and stillborn imagery becomes commonplace in the film. Uneasy sequences they may be but they prove necessary to exhibit and augment the suffering of the two protagonists. There is a calculated ugliness in “AntiChrist” as the film resorts to verbal hostility for the first two acts until the horror elements are kicked into high gear that includes some very graphic genital mutilation. Trier brings some bloody ejaculation and clitoral circumcision that is complemented by the case of pure delirium in the woods of Eden. (the scenes are very graphic and shows every unnerving detail)
“AntiChrist” is a movie not for the faint of heart. I cannot say that I can give the film a strong recommendation since the film just gets its strengths from graphic imagery which would undoubtedly turn off a lot of viewers. However graphic and disquieting the film is, it is mesmerizing as the film has some enthralling tricks of camerawork, nice artwork-like compositions and the naked despair is just able to move the most detached watcher. Much of the film’s burden falls on Charlotte Gainsbourg and she delivers in her portrayal; she is scary yet so sympathetic. Von Trier’s “AntiChrist” is very combative and definitely tests your threshold for discomfort and pain. You have to have a mindset that is bold and daring to partake of this dark, slow-burning, “art house” horror movie.
The Film is of very graphic nature that only a timid recommendation may be given. [4- Stars]
**** out of **** What is horror? Is it an exploitation of pop-out moments and blood? Is it a celebration of fear itself and whatever chooses to accompany it? Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist" has shown me true fear in its most relentless state. That is why I mention such a thing. To call "Antichrist" a horror film is a bit of an understatement. Quite in fact, this not a horror film. It is frightening and savage, but never does it rely on jumps for either. … more
I've seen a lot of filthy, x-rated material, so I wasn't terribly shocked with what I saw here, though I was impressed with what this movie accomplished. Von Trier managed to create a movie that's pornographic but also of artistic merit, and its inspiration from Andrei Tarkovski is rather noticeable (such as nature being a main theme, and main visual). Had to dock off a point because while the film was really solid, I felt the delivery of themes was a little too direct, and some of Charlotte Gainsbourg's … more
I have never heard of the work of Lars Von Trier and I have only ever heard mutterings, both positive and negative, of his skills as a director. I am afraid that I am going to lean towards the negatives and agree with the one claim of the director being pretentious. The movie is not a bad effort and actually provided quite a disturbing viewing experience whilst still maintaining my interest throughout. In the UK and, undoubtedly the rest of the world, this film has drawn massive controversy for … more