Antichrist  – ★★★★
✂ The film targets the “primal human needs” in the audience, the Freudian connection between sex and death, and the “death” drive.
Coming from Danish director Lars Von Trier (Dancer in the Dark (2000), Dogville (2003)), this controversial film promises to be anything, but an easy ride. Hailed in Denmark a masterpiece overnight, Antichrist became “a bloody conundrum” abroad. The film follows a guilt-driven/grief-ridden couple (He & She) as they retreat into a cabin in the woods, trying hard to combat both their grief in relation to their lost child and their inexplicable fears. As they face each other and their surrounding environment deep in the woods, they soon realise that their retreat is far from being therapeutic.
As Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia (2011), this film is concerned with contrasts. It deals with a variety of issues: pleasure/pain, death/birth/life, innocence/guilt, religion/immorality/lust, happiness/sorrow, etc. The film’s gloom is trying to elicit the feelings of apprehension mixed with wonder. As the couple in the film grieve for their lost child and feel certain responsibility for his death, the audience is slowly drawn into the inexplicable atmosphere of unease. There is a strong sense of “medical” curiosity throughout the movie, too. The main character (She) is suffering from panic attacks, anxiety and phobia, but also, most likely, depression, PTSD and paranoia. In the movie, she becomes the subject which is curious to observe, not only for her husband, who is trying to examine and cure her, but also for the audience.
Undoubtedly, this film could be described as “shocking” as it tries to elicit a negative reaction from its audience. It may succeed in doing so, too, showing graphic and bold sexual and violent activities towards the very end. However, it also seems that Lars Von Trier is playing with his audience throughout the movie, trying to determine how much he can show, and what he must hold back. The film targets the “primal human needs” in the audience, the Freudian connection between sex and death, and the “death” drive. As Dennis Schwartz said, Antichrist is “grim film that wants you to feel the pain its characters do.” As the film’s main characters undergo their slow “transformation” and experience different things, so does the audience, who are expected to experience some levels of ecstasy, “feel” the unbelievable pain and think deeply about the nature’s darkest sides.
The central idea of the film seems to be that nature is the Devil’s realm; as nature is evil and it controls women, they must be evil too. He and She in the film may represent Adam and Eve who return to the Beginning of all the Beginnings, the Eden Garden, with the “Three Beggars” constellation being the antipode to the Three Saints of the Holy Bible. When Adam and Eve are in the Eden, it is Eve (She) who becomes tempted by the snake. The same thing happens in the film: while He remains rational (at least to a certain point in the film), She is portrayed as the one who goes insane, lustful and irrationally violent. However, despite being grotesque, Antichrist is also a beautiful piece of cinematography. The film’s fearless camera shots all dwell in the right places.
In this film, Charlotte Gainsbourg gives a brave performance as She, as does Willem Dafoe, as her husband, the therapist (He). However, it is also evident upon watching the film that its symbolic message is only half-delivered. We get to know something about the main characters’ obsessions, eccentricities and hidden thoughts, but how it all fits into the bigger picture of the film’s premise is left unclear. There are hardly any developments or explanations given as to such terms as “Nature’s Devil“, “The Three Beggars” and the phrase “Nature is the Satan’s Church“. The title of the film is also confusing as it wrongly suggests a biblical reference (as opposed to a reference to paganism, which would have been more appropriate). The wholly unrealistic pain-resistant nature of the main characters is also a very surprising discovery in the movie, though probably not as surprising as the talking fox.
Antichrist deals with every imaginable horror scenario, and though the film is quite nightmarish, inexplicable and definitely not for everyone, it is still quite original, stylish and thought-provoking.
Hi. Thanks so much for the like and follow. I enjoyed reading your review of Antichrist, especially your resistance to the lazily drawn out thesis that one often hears about the film as being misogynistic. Best wishes, CUPAFS
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I’d agree, this film is not for everyone! Fantastic write-up. It’s a pretty beautiful yet shocking movie.
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