WARNING! SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!
I got into a special sneak preview screening of the controversial new horror film from LARS VON TRIER, ANTICHRIST, this past Sunday night at the Cinefamily. I’ve had quite a few days to digest the film and now feel like I can finally give it a fair examination since the initial viewing. When I first saw it, I was coming off very little sleep and the exhaustion, combined with the film’s content was quite a kick in the face to my senses.
The movie is about a married couple, played by WILLEM DAFOE and CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG, who suffer the loss of their infant son. The disturbing, yet strangely beautiful sequence of his death is played out in a black and white, slow motion ballet, set to the dreamlike ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ from ‘Rinaldo’. While his inattentive parents have sex in another room, we helplessly watch the boy fall to his doom on the snow covered street outside his bedroom window.
From that point, we watch how both parents deal with the tragedy. He is a psychologist and chooses to remain calm and analytical of his and his wife’s feelings. She falls apart with grief and becomes dependent on anti-depression meds, which he soon takes her off of.
They retreat from the city to their cabin in the middle of the woods, to try to come to terms with their loss through therapy. Once alone with nature, it begins to become clear that there are powerful forces at work, way beyond a psychiatric viewpoint.
I’m not now, nor probably never will be a huge LARS VON TRIER fan. My favorite thing he’s done are the two seasons of the bizarre Danish television show THE KINGDOM. I know that it’s probably his most mainstream work (as well as being his previous foray into supernatural horror) and I’m a very big advocate of art house cinema, but his movies have always struck me as being a little too much on the pretentious side and his hateful world view leaves me just a little cold.
But those same qualities, I guess, serve ANTICHRIST well. It is one mean, vicious, disturbing and downright haunting film. It really fucks you up. If you look at it on the level of accomplishing everything it sets out to do, then it has. But I really can’t say that I enjoyed watching ANTICHRIST. It was a hard film to watch. Really hard. But then again, that’s the point of a true horror film, which it definitely is.
I found the two nameless main characters (He and She are how they are referred to in the end credits) to be really hard people to like, which of course is the point. The ambivalence that you begin to share with the filmmaker towards the main characters is part of the movies strength and weakness for me. I only felt myself attached to anything emotionally during the moments of extreme physical violence that take place in the third act. Once again, I think that’s the point.
This is a weird review for me to write. While I admired the film on one level, I also found it to be so disturbing on a whole to watch, that I don’t think I’ll ever want to see it again. Also, for the life of me I can’t find one other person who’s seen it, that can properly explain to me the perplexing final shot in the movie and its meaning.
If you love LARS VON TRIER and don’t mind really fucked up stuff (and I mean it when I say, FUCKED UP: A deer running around with a bloody fetus hanging out of it, a penis cuming blood, a stone wheel being drilled onto a man’s leg, a clitoris cut off by scissors, etc.) then it’s a must see. I just wouldn’t eat first.