Director: Lars von Trier
Writer: Lars von Trier
Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle
by Susan Bartley
I’ve been holding off on watching this film since it came out. I heard it was intense. I heard you get to see William Dafoe’s penis. I forgot about the castration scene - one of the most disturbing moments I’ve ever witnessed in a film next to the bulk of Ken Park (2002). The film opens up with such great beauty that from there on out you are praying for its return. This movie is sad and depressing. Sure, there are other movies that fit such a description. Antichrist just seems offensive and risqué for no other sake than to be regarded as such.
I recalled accusations of misogyny and figured it was the typical hyperbolic criticism that usually makes its way around social media circles. No. It’s is one hundred percent misogynistic. Willem Dafoe is trying to comfort his ailing wife after their infant child jumped out a window while the two were fucking. Dafoe is calm and collected while Charlotte Gainsbourg unleashes a two hour fire storm of crying, violent outbreaks, and screaming. It’s a great performance. I just don’t get the point of it. It seemed far more premise-based than anything else, as though Von Trier figured he could finally express his misogynistic, sado-masochistic anxieties. It's just not a good story. It’s all mood, performance, and pseudo-cerebral nonsense. It’s not that I don’t know what to take from it. There is nothing to take. To conclude anything demands a stretch and debatable leap in logic. I appreciate that we truly get to witness another man’s subconscious. It’s alleged that von Trier had a horrific time trying to finish this story, slipping into manic depression much like Charlotte’s character. So is it just a story about von Trier’s own anxieties in creating the story, rather than the actual reaction a mother might express in the event of losing her child? Ebert says he wasn’t sure what was in it for him as an audience member beyond the performances. I agree, and if the performances are all that matter then how about we create any horrific situation, find some amazing talent, and just watch them act? What matters is what they’re acting toward, what they’re they’re responding to.
Another interesting point is the unanimity in Europe’s praise of the film versus the States’ division. For one of a handful of times, I think American critics saw through all the pseudo-intellectual nonsense. We must face the fact that subtitles can often make a movie appear more artistic and deeper than it actually is. I’m not sure why. It just does and it's why foreign films are generally regarded as 'high culture' and rarely viewed by the mass movie going audiences, no matter the content's accessibility. And so when I’m hearing uninspired words being screamed at me for two hours that might be interpreted differently than if I had to read those words. I have a suspicion that having to read the subtitles might have distracted audiences from how grotesque the film was.
It’s a story that lives up to the stereotype of general audiences watching it, the credits roll, and after they calm from how terrifying it all was they ask what was the point? Cause what is the point? Von Trier makes it hard to separate the man from the artistry. He’s so arrogant and I think one of the most interesting filmmakers alive. But I think he fucks with people’s heads. Either he really does think this material is heavy and intellectual, or he’s laughing alone when all these critics think he create a masterful work of art.
BELOW: The opening scene, which is about as good as the film gets. It really is a beautiful sequence, and if viewed as a short film, will save you about 102 minutes and nightmares for days
Thoughts on films, old and new
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