Monday, August 27, 2012


I know this is the third movie in a row but all of the recent Lars Von Trier press (the nazi comment at Cannes, beef with Drive director and fellow Dane; Nicolas Winding Refn, Shia Lebouf apparently having unsimulated sex in his upcoming film) just so happens to coincide with the phase I'm in at the moment. Between my write-up of Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now and The Cinema Of Lars Von Trier, I think its time we actually get in to this movie and how its grown on me in the last two years. Not to say I disliked the movie when I first saw it or anything but I was more caught up in how disoriented and fucked up it left me feeling that I didn't really pay attention to the acting, imagery and possible messages behind the movie. Trust me, even a movie fanatic like myself rolls my eyes when I hear people talk about how moved or affected they were from a movie or a particular scene (just sounds like they're exaggerating). But Antichrist did kinda mess with me - from demonic talking foxes to the flashback scene when Charlotte Gainsbourg notices sounds coming from the baby monitor yet does nothing to prevent her son's death. Like many other Von Trier films (Europa, The Idiots, Manderlay, etc) Antichrist was also shrouded in controversy before it even reached the general public. To this day I think people are STILL too caught up in scenes of penises ejaculating blood to realize that this is a really good film with great imagery and acting (especially from Gainsbourg). Lets also not forget that Lars was able to keep our attention for two hours with a cast made up of only two people. Not since What Happened Was has there been such an entertaining movie with only two actors. Gainsbourg's performance is both awesome and kinda tough to watch at times. She really goes all out in her performance from masturbating completely naked in the middle of the woods with her legs spread wide open to her ability to display grief & sadness.

As I pointed out in my School Of Tarkovsky series, Antichrist is one of the best dedications to the filmmaking style of Andrei Tarkovsky since Carlos Reygadas' Japon (Von Trier even dedicated Antichrist to him)...

Solaris (1972)                                                                             Antichrist (2009)
Antichrist isn't exactly a horror movie yet strangely enough its more "scary" than any recent actual horror movie I've seen in years. Besides Tarkovsky, Von Trier draws elements from classic horror films like The Exorcist and The Shining with quick flashes of demonic & horrific images across the screen (for years I've been saying more modern horror films could use more elements like this)...

Top: Images from The Exorcist, Bottom: Images from Antichrist (shout out to Matt Reddick for the two print screens)

Von Trier also subtly distorts the visuals from time to time with a kind of water drop effect on the screen. Additionally, Antichrist draws some similarities to films like Eraserhead & Lost Highway (Lynch) as well as Irreversible & Enter The Void (Noe) with its disorienting, droning & base-heavy soundtrack that just adds an extra level of eeriness (see video clips at the end of the blog)

So lets do a quick tally: unexpected flashes of demonic faces on a distorted screen combined with droning audio, evil talking animals, penises ejaculating blood and an amazingly intense performance (Charlotte Gainsbourg).

 It’s hard for me to actually rate this movie with something like a 4 outta 5 stars or a "good" or "bad". Antichrist feels more like an “experience” than just a movie. I don’t mean to sound so dramatic but that’s the best I can do when someone asks if this movie is good or not. In the film Willem Dafoe ("Him") and Charlotte Gainsbourg ("Her") play a married couple trying to get past the loss their son (he fell out of window). Things get complicated when Dafoe’s character tries to play double duty as the supportive husband AND psychiatrist to his wife who seems to be taking the loss much harder than him. So they go off to their cabin in the woods for some progressive new-age psychotherapy. But as the story unfolds Dafoe starts to discover some disturbing things about his wife and what she’s been up to behind his back. As it turns out she was getting in to the world of witchcraft (when she was supposed to be working on her masters). The longer they stay at the cabin, more and more strange occurrence happen - Talking animals, vicious hail storms and Gainsbourg's behavior becomes more and more violent to the point where she's practically possessed. These days people tend to site recent films like Blue Valentine or A Separation as an example of why marriage and relationships can be tough. But in my opinion Antichrist kinda takes the cake as far as stories about a marriage or relationships put to the ultimate test. What the hell was Lars trying to say with Antichrist? To this day I’m still not exactly sure but part of me thinks he might be trying to say something dark & disturbing about women as a whole. I know I may be reaching and some of you may not feel the same way but the final scene where we see Willem Dafoe walking through a sea of ghostly women on their way to the cabin along with the very powerful flashback scene where its implied that Gainsbourg could have done something to prevent the death of her son kinda gave me this strange feeling that Von Trier has a bone to pick with women or he doesn't trust them (and lets not forget the scene where Charlotte Gainsbourg takes a pair of scissors to her genitals). I'd love for any women that've seen Antichrist to chime in on my lil' theory. This movie will do nothing to shake the misogynist label that many people have tagged Von Trier with. Damn near all his films show a female character either; murdered, beaten, raped or all 3 (although in this movie its Willem Dafoe that gets this treatment minus the murder part).
Now there's a lot more to Antichrist than the possible implication that Lars has issues with women (which is a theory that I could be WAY off on). Antichrist is also about depression and how it can be crippling, especially when dealing with the loss of a child (in the first have of the film Gainsbourg pretty much blames herself for her sons death). Anyone who knows anything about Von Trier knows about his battles with depression, phobias and anxiety (something Gainsbourg's character battles with in the film). So while on one hand Gainsbourg's character could be seen as "evil", on the other hand Gainsbourg's character could be an extension of Von Trier himself. Religion also played a heavy part in Von Trier's upbringing (he was raised Jewish but eventually converted to Catholicism). Besides the obvious the title, Antichrist (along with many of his other films like Breaking The Waves) is filled with a ton of religious guilt and symbolism.
I recommend that this not be the last thing you watch before you go to sleep. It’s a good idea to have a “happy” movie on deck right after you’re finished watching this.

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