Antichrist (von Trier, 2009)

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So much to say about Antichrist, but it’s hard to know where to begin. One thing’s for sure – another viewing is needed before I write something concrete. Instead of constructing a coherent review, I’ll stick to random thoughts.

The film is not the ideological monster its detractors make it out to be, especially considering how ludicrous it is to judge a film such as this on one viewing at a frenzied film festival setting. But Antichirst is indeed a fascinating monster. It strikes a cord in almost every scene, from shock, awe, to moments of complete disbelief. It uses slow motion to hypnotize both the characters and the viewers into a lull, and in this altered state, evil washes the frame. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are incredible, going above and beyond in this crazy back and forth mind-game. And for every “crazy” moment of violence, there’s a beautifully sustained image, a signifier of sorts. Antichrist ping pongs back and forth between horror film, psychological thriller, and melodrama, yet stays distinctly focused on the subtextual nature of this conflicted relationship.

The ideas behind the film are muddled to say the least – the failure of rationalization, the arrogance of men, history’s treatment of women, etc. etc. But the process of discovery von Trier creates is something frightening to behold. It’s shocking how quickly Antichrist morphs into a parlor game of cinematic trickery. von Trier’s manipulation of the visuals contrasted with the epic and endless sound design seems to suggest a whole other world creeping under the floorboards and behind the trees. Every crevasse, burrow, and hole carries the weight of a traumatic moment, a broken psyche. But what’s it all about? Hell if I know.

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2 thoughts on “Antichrist (von Trier, 2009)

  1. Chaos Reigns! There is a lot more going on in this film than you’ve touched on in this review. I can’t wait for your subsequent viewings, where you can dig a bit deeper into this very deep and complicated film. Ultimately it is about Gainsbourg’s character trying to set herself up as victim (her thesis on violence committed against women, her unsettling and unending grief) only to finally and horrifyingly realize that there is an evil incarnate in herself. Her husband’s arrogant and domineering attempts to “cure” her only leads to his becoming a victim in this ruse. The more he explores her psyche the more he falls into her trap until he realizes that she has been destroying their son all along. There is something even deeper than that as you analyze their interpersonal relationships and attempt a look at the deeper symbolism behind the “three beggars” around which the film is structured. Like you said, it definitely will warrant multiple viewings.

  2. You bring up some interesting points Scotten. This is a film that still gets under my skin, if not simply for that last astounding shot of the hillside, faceless masses. Can’t wait to discuss it in person.

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