ANTICHRIST (Lars Von Trier)
I have a copy of all of Von Trier's films, except THE BOSS OF IT ALL. Of those films, I only saw his first, which is THE ELEMENT OF CRIME, and his latest, which is ANTICHRIST. His first film is hauntingly dark. ANTICHRIST is darkly haunting.
Obviously not for the faint of heart, ANTICHRIST is an exercise in patience and observation, but when you get to the third act, the suspense level builds up fast until you're short of breath. This is ANTICHRIST's powerful element: it has a strong, unforgettable climax.
Those expecting to see demons or Damianesque children will be sorely disappointed. The demons here are figurative, and the title refers more to how the film is constructed, which is an antithesis of all its elements, hence the prefix anti-.
The story concerns a couple who has to deal with the accidental death of their son. Throughout the grieving and recovery process, nature takes its role and a psychological battle ensues.
The characters are unnamed: Willem Dafoe is He, while Charlotte Gainsbourg is She. This I think was intended to address a universal approach to the dynamics between man and woman.
The film is divided into a prologue, four chapters, and an epilogue. The whole spoiler-filled plot can be read at Wikipedia.
The cinematography and editing is masterful. Jump cuts are dominant, as well as the rendering of certain scenes in slow motion for greater emphasis and heightened mood. The prologue and epilogue are in black in white, and the accompanying musical score in both parts is plain haunting.
To start a theological and psychoanalytical deconstruction of ANTICHRIST would mean I have to stretch my brain cells to its full capacity. I will never fully understand what Von Trier is trying to underscore. Is it gender inequality? Is it loss? Is it marital breakdown? Is it nature's role in people's lives? One thing is for sure, that line by Charlotte Gainsbourg will be another textbook legend: "NATURE IS SATAN'S PLAYGROUND".
What is commendable though in Von Trier's story is his angle of antithesis. In the movies, we always see men beat up, torture, and be a complete nightmare to women. This time the position is reversed. In the story, we do not see any traces of bad light for Dafoe's character which could explain why Gainsbourg is acting as a delusional homicidal roaring rampage of revenge (if I may borrow from Tarantino). What we are offered on the tip of the iceberg is that She is dealing with loss, and paranoia kicks in. Of course, there may be hidden elements that could point out to her motive.
The movie starts out all right, gets kinda bland on the second act, and recovers with a bang on the finale. The entire SAW franchise is contained in 30 minutes of pure terror Lars Von Trier style.
There is much nudity and sexual bout going on in the film, and in equal doses-blood, too. You'll never look at masturbation the same way again. Von Trier as he always does, sheds much light on taboos and confronts us with our own fears, and restraints.
Gainsbourg is a revelation. I already noticed her in SCIENCE OF SLEEP and 21 GRAMS, but this really is her defining film. Gainsbourg owned the movie. Dafoe was emasculated. Or so you will have thought. I made a promise prior to writing this that I will not write spoilers. Hence the cryptic references.
I stared at the credits as they rolled. I was thinking of the whole idea of ANTICHRIST. Until now I never fully understood the film. I just know it is a beautiful work of art. Beautiful, in a sick and twisted kind of way.