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.