Antichrist (2009) Lars Von Trier
Production Budget: $11 million
Worldwide Gross: $686,000
Yes, I finally got to see this movie. As you may or may not know, I am a huge Lars von Trier fan. I have see all of his movies and at one time, even made my own commentary track for Dogville. I was glad to see him return after a semi retirement. Von Trier entered a deep depression after the fallout of Manderlay and it seemed after Boss of it All, an indie comedy he created (yeah, a Lars von Trier comedy…just think about that for a while), he was going to quit film making. While it doesn’t seem like he will finish his America trilogy with Wasington, at least he has worked through his depression with Antichrist.
Antichrist is about a couple, known only as he (Willem Dafoe) and she (Charlotte Gainsbourg), whose son has an accident and dies while the couple are making love. The female character falls into deep depression and has a paralyzing fear about nature; specifically a cabin they went to in a forest called Eden. The male character, who is a therapist, takes it upon himself to take her to Eden to confront her fears and to help her with her grief. As soon as they arrive though, nature itself seems to turn against the couple.
I honestly have no idea about this movie. I have been trying to examine this movie for the past week and even reading other analysis of the film and I still can’t really say what it is about. Von Trier never wants to make his themes or symbolism painfully obvious, but here it almost seems to me like he’s gone too far in that direction. The movie is so vague that it can almost be interpreted in any way you want it to. I have read analysis which call this misogynist (and with reasoned arguments) and some that say it is anti-misogynist. I have read some that call it anti-Christian, while others talk about subconscious themes of Christianity in the form of temptation and sin. The most plausible one I see so far is just that it is Von Trier working out all of his psychological bullshit. As I go into detail before in my Dogville commentary, this is a guy who was raised by nudist atheist anarchists who had no role in raising him. After finding out the father he grew up with wasn’t his biological father (after death), and his biological father wanting nothing to do with him he had a mental breakdown. This is a guy who collects phobias like Pokemon cards, is a perfectionist to compensate for his upbringing without guidance or rules, a guy who turned to Catholicism (as some theorize) as a rejection of his atheist father, and who may distrust women after the perceived betrayal by his mother. Antichrist could be Von Trier working out his feelings with the deceptive/evil she and the rejection of modern therapy with the male who has the unmitigated ego to think he can analyze the incomprehensible subconscious with reason and logic. Again, this is all pure speculation because Von Trier almost revels in the fact he is being so vague and not answering anything. Because of that, I want to mark the movie down for being too, I’m searching for the word, obtuse?
The movie has atmosphere and it has it in spades. This has some of the best visuals of any Von Trier movie. The woods are all misty and ominous with tricks of the camera to make parts of the image wobbly and distorted (hard to explain but cool). There are many scenes that are downright artistic and others (like the famous scissors scene) which are so graphic and shocking they can turn many viewers off. The acting by the two leads are great and they carry what could be on paper very hammy dialog.
I’m really torn on this movie. The acting, the visuals, and some of the tension are really well done. Some of the things Von Trier does behind the camera is downright brilliant. That being said, the movie can be too ponderous and drags far too much in certain areas. The symbolism is a bit too muddled to comprehend and at times intentionally frustrating. Overall, this film is a bit of an oddity. This is a disturbing movie, and I can see recommending it to some because they want to see what all the fuss is about. But to most everyone, I can safely say you can miss out on this one. There is better Von Trier to watch first, and as a horror movie you could also do better. I really wanted to love this movie, but in the end I just didn’t care for it as much as Von Trier’s other stuff.