If you saw this film right after being informed that Lars Von Trier made it during a period of severe depression, you would presumably understand why Antichrist is the way it is.
This, if I recall correctly, was my introduction to the pornographic arthouse genre of film – I.E. the kind of film Oancitizen would probably analyze at That Guy With The Glasses – and I suppose you might say it changed my life. It is a truly nasty but terrifying film, with some of the most truly cringe-worthy moments I’ve ever seen in any film, of any genre; it seemingly takes place in a world where everyone and everything is either miserable or evil. I have most certainly seen no movie like it, neither before nor since.
Antichrist has an opening you would normally see in a parody of art-films; a man known simply as He (Willem Dafoe) and a woman known simply as She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) make love, as the picture is monochrome and the music is “Lascia ch’io pianga” by George Frideric Händel. As they do this, their toddler son jumps out of his bed and falls out of an open window whilst observing falling snowflakes. He does not survive. After the funeral, both He and She, but She especially, start grieving over their loss. He fruitlessly uses psychotherapy on Her. The two eventually travel to a place, a cabin in the woods called Eden, where She and the boy once were while She was studying Gynocide.
They spend a few nights in the cabin, where He discovers some horrible truths about Her, and She starts to go absolutely insane from her grief, despite His psychotherapy. She starts to think all women are inherently evil and witches. The two start hurting each other physically, in ways that are so gruesome that I don’t find it in me to describe them and that only get worse as the movie progresses.
As this happens, they are observed by a deer, a fox and a crow; three animals that together are The Three Beggars. I’m not entirely sure what they’ve got to do with anything.
I am also not sure I understand the film’s title, nor some of the things that happen in it. From what I’ve heard, the movie actually takes place in another dimension, where the Universe was not created by God, but by Satan. This would explain why, in a way, the film is the Adam and Eve story backwards. Though I don’t really desire a full explanation for the film or its symbolism.
When I first saw the film I was horrified and I hated what I had just seen. I thought it was the most sickening, odious film I had ever seen. It took me a while to realize that I had been a bit childish and that my reaction had been exactly right – the film had simply done it’s job perfectly, the job being to terrify me, scare me and make me cringe more than once.
I would say that it is up there with Eraserhead in terms of genuine horror – keep in mind, I say this because Eraserhead is one of the only films that have ever truly scared me – and that Von Trier’s depression is somewhat obvious. If you know the cause of his sadness, whilst observing the way He and She torture each other, you will most likely understand. Antichrist is most certainly a well-made movie, although incredibly disturbing at times.
Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are phenomenally good in their roles. Easily among the most courageous and believable acting I have seen on film. I must also compliment the cinematography of Antichrist; the slow-moving scene that takes us inside the mind of She, during one of Her psychotherapy sessions, is superbly shot from beginning to end and the camera work certainly helps giving the film its grim, scary tone. No matter your opinion on the rest of the movie, it is hard not appreciate how it is filmed. Or the splendid performances, for that matter.
It is a hard movie to watch. I am, as you might be aware, rarely scared by horror pictures and I tend to find them either silly or merely fun to look at if they have some gore; Antichrist, on the other hand, made me cover my eyes more often than not. I have to say that a film that achieves that, surely deserves my applause.
The film is not of perfection, though. Some of it is rather lengthy and parts of it indeed tend to be a bit silly, such as the well-known “talking fox”-scene, so I will not give it a 5/5. I am hoping I will do this when I see Lars Von Trier’s new movie Melancholia, though. I am longing to see it and I am longing to give it my highest rating.