Antichrist

2 Sep

Antichrist–if there ever was a movie made that demanded a reaction, this is it.  My reaction?  Well, it’s basically ummmmm….

The movie is extremely violent featuring scenes of genital mutilation as well as a millstone drilled through a man’s leg.  It’s also graphically sexual.   In a big way I view this as shock cinema.  I can’t help but watch it with the frame of mind that Von Trier made this with the attitude of “so you like horror movies, well what about a horror movie that has actual suffering?  Not so much fun then is it?”   Not only does this movie give me this impression because of the level of violence, but it’s clearly set up within horror movie conventions.   The set-up is very similar to Rosemary’s Baby–we’ve got a woman with fears and her husband is calmly pointing out how irrational they are.   Here, he’s setting himself up as her therapist, however, his “therapeutic distance” comes off as controlling and not in the least bit reassuring.     Part of this movie is a big “screw you” to psychotherapy, because the “therapy” does not help anything at all, and ends up being useless against the forces of chaos that are against them.

To this degree, the film succeeds.  It is designed to disgust, and disgust it will.  However, to put this a cut above the same provocateur status that shock videos one can look up on the web, it has to have something more to make it a work of art.  Does it?  Yes, but only barely.

One thing this movie does very well is the filming.  Several scenes are absolutely pristine, the opening images, the images in the forest, the foxhole.  Von Trier has a knack of filming nature to make it look completely unnatural, and the best scenes in this film have nothing to do with violence or sexuality, but how the ferns can look ghastly while just being ferns, or the trees, or weather.   The point that really resonates in this film is that nature is not our friend.  Nature does not care if people die or are in pain, and any thought that we live outside of nature is an illusion.  We are no more sentient in many ways than the fox, the deer, and the crow.   Had the film focused on only this, I would have called it a success.

However, the other theme, of gynocide–the killing of women–is not as well fleshed out.    This is a huge problem, because the woman in this film loses her mind due to her studying gynocide.   She eventually comes to believe that women are inherently evil.   However, the film fails to show how a formerly rational person could come to an irrational belief.   This part of the film is frustratingly vague rather than interestingly ambiguous.   Was she always disordered?  Did she lose it the summer before in the cabin?  Did he drive her to being crazy?

And as for gynocide–it’s hard to say what the movie is trying to bring up about violence towards women.   In one scene we see hundreds of bodies lying around the trees, as if this land was haunted by the spirits of dead women, however what this is supposed to signify is unclear.  Are these the women through history that have been tortured and killed for being women?   Is the female main character showing the woman fear as a sort of example–because I don’t see her violence as gender specific, just as violence.  Also though nature is traditionally equated with femininity, this movie doesn’t really make the link between femaleness and nature.   Yes, it shows a lot of images of both, but that’s a far cry from stating that women=nature so fear of nature=fear of women.

On top of that, there’s many scenes that are so over-the-top it’s difficult to take them seriously.  The fox talking for one is unintentionally funny.   Also, Willem Defoe dragging himself with a millstone hooked to his leg.

In the end, I can’t help but say that instead of this movie you should watch Meloncholia and Cabin in the Woods, both of which are much better films that do what this film tries to do successfully.  I think antichrist is both trying to be a expressionistic film about fear and depression and also a deconstruction of horror films, and in doing so tries to do too much and falls into incoherence.   It’s a noble failure to be sure, but a failure none-the-less.

 

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