When I studied film in college there were certain films that would come up more than others. Memento and Inception, Fight Club (of course), and for whatever reason, Antichrist. Maybe it was only once or twice but you don’t forget an Antichrist conversation. On one hand, it’s a film lover’s wet dream with rich visuals, deep earthly colors and even deeper themes. On the other hand, its a nightmare porn film ravaged by sorrow and misery. Either way, it’s not a fun time, but is it a rewarding experience?
Despite my overall opinion, I would answer yes to my initial question. Antichrist is rewarding as a technical achievement; it’s sound, imagery, acting. It wows you from the start with an opening montage in sensuous black and white played at the speed of a melting snowflake to its disturbing reveal of a tree full of human body parts later in the film. Antichrist is among the most stunning films I have ever seen.
As a human story, the film feels like the ramblings of a perverted, misogynistic, neanderthal. One who makes Nazi jokes at that. Lars Von Trier’s public image aside the man’s work is undoubtedly controversial. Lars Von Trier movies are chock full of realistic violence and graphic depictions of sex. Not to mention Von Trier doesn’t have the healthiest opinion of women. Charlotte Gainsbourg in Antichrist is constantly demeaned and reduced to a mentally unfit ball of emotions. She’s solely responsible for everything that goes wrong in her life and only descends deeper and deeper into instability. This results in her mutilating her genitals with scissors and being strangled and burned by Willem Dafoe. Fun for the whole family, right?
As I’ve already made mention, the film opens with a black and white segment. Dafoe and Gainsbourg known only as Him and Her are having graphic sex in black and white. Classical music is playing and rain is falling and while in the throes of passion, their toddler son climbs out of his crib and falls out a window from very high up. It’s upsetting, to say the least. The film segues into another chapter (the film is in chapters) where Her has become bedridden from an intense kind of PTSD. Him and Her seek out a therapist who suggests the only way to get over their guilt is to attack Her’s greatest fear head on. That sounds like terrible advice.
Oddly, enough, Her’s greatest fear is returning to a cabin in the woods known as “New Eden”. Her took a trip out there once with her son to work on a paper about how women in society are inherently evil. There’s that positive representation of women again. Apparently, there was a force so evil in the woods that it completely consumed Her and made her think evil thoughts with a desire to perform evil acts. As you can guess, she has and does both.
Honestly, I’m surprised Antichrist is as unambiguous as it is. Unless I completely misunderstood the entire movie. What I gathered is that Her was drawn to witchcraft and brought under the power of the devil. This results in her wanting violent sex with Him, demanding him to hit her, having sex naked in the gross woods and then later smashing his testicles and having him ejaculate blood. The film goes on like this for ninety minutes until its grisly end. Good times.
The film is gross but going in knowing all of this didn’t make it that hard to watch. It’s not even the most disgusting film I watched this Shocktober, that honor goes to Salos or the 120 Days of Sodom. I’ll take a bloody boner over eating poop any day. Never thought I’d have to write that. Still, that’s not to downplay the graphic nature of this film, it’s intense and one of the many reasons this film has been so divisive.
How does a vomit-inducing, sex-horror film from a 70-page script get made? Lars Von Trier is a true artist. A sick guy, probably, but an artist. The way Von Trier uses the camera, the way he frames his actors and props is reason worth seeing this film alone. I just wish it wasn’t so slow and revolting. Why did he want to make the movie? I don’t know, maybe the Devil made him do it.
This is the worst vacation ever.