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September 18, 2010 / Guest Contributions

‘Trier’ Little Harder: A Review of Lars Von Trier’s ‘AntiChrist.’

How many of you, as pubescent teenagers, took your girlfriend or a female relationship prospect to a horror film, just so that they would get within a very close proximity of your penis?  Not me, mainly because no woman could ever justify being within a one kilometre radius of my presence – but I’m sure most of my readership have (and perhaps continue to do so under strenuous circumstances).  If you are one of these people, then perhaps ‘Antichrist,’ a movie by self proclaimed “world’s greatest director” Lars Von Trier, is right up your alley.  Not only does it provide amble doses of violence and horror, but it also provides the viewers with enough information about human reproductive anatomy that would make a pornographic film look like an episode of ‘Blue’s Clues.’  But really, what else would you expect from an ‘Arthouse’ picture?

The film starts off with a rousing rendition of Georg Friedrich Händel’s beautiful aria, Lascia ch’io pianga from Rinaldo.  Immediately you are presented with black and white scenes of Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg in passionate embrace.  These scenes are shot with the kind of slow motion camera you see being used in sports coverage around the world.  In fact, it feels like Lars Von Trier turned on Channel Nine’s telecast of the cricket one day, and saw them use the slow motion cameras played to classical music and thought, ‘heck, that sounds like a bang up idea for my next film!’  The only thing is, it’s a little difficult to tell whether they are having sex from the shots we are seeing.  So next, Lars Von Trier decides to add to the vast array of subtleties by inserting a close up, hardcore insert, of a penis entering a woman’s vagina.  It is these kinds of shots that truly dictate his proclamation of being the greatest director in the world.  Glad he cleared that up confusion.   Next we see their child fall out of a window, and this triggers Willem Dafoe’s character to take Charlotte Gainbourg’s character to a forest area called ‘Eden’ to face her fears.

Isn't Eden beautiful?

The reason why I say Willem Dafoe’s character is because we never learn any of the character’s names.  They are simply referred to as ‘He’ and ‘She’ to add some eerie mystery to make up for the film’s excruciatingly slow pace.  It is in these typical arthouse techniques that really makes ‘Antichrist’ a movie so obnoxious that it can (amazingly) actively compete with its directors inflated ego.  There’s even a scene where a self-mutilating prophetic fox warns Willem Dafoe that ‘Chaos Reigns’ and you are not even expected to laugh.  That isn’t to say I didn’t laugh at all during this one hour forty-five minute snore fest, that makes going to the dentist for root canal surgery feel like a privilege.  There is a memorable scene featuring Willem Dafoe laying into a crow which I found darkly amusing, and for that scene alone I’m giving it 23 points.

I’m going to come out and say, subjectively, that I did not enjoy this movie as much as I would have expected.  Lars Von Trier really creates an eerie atmosphere out of ‘Eden,’ the acting is beyond outstanding and engaging.  The underlying philosophical elements behind each character’s convictions is well thought out and detailed, but is hardly explained in a manner that could capture the audience’s imagination.  This is not unlike how a three year old child converses with others – expecting the listener to have a prior understanding of what is inside the child’s head while they are telling the story.  Instead, Lars Von Trier seems to be attempting feverishly to shock the audience with gratuitous extreme close up scenes of genital mutilation.  On one spectrum, we have the director trying desperately throughout the film to evoke atmospheric and subtle plot and character developments, whilst on the other, inserting obvious unsettling close up scenes of a penis (that was previously crushed) being stimulated until it ejaculates blood, among other favourites.  It almost seems like the director cannot stand by the quality of the film his making, instead trying to generate controversy to attain media coverage and attention.  This has been confirmed with Lars Von Trier’s inability to justify to an angry Cannes press conference why he made the film in the first place.

What I find more engaging than the film itself, is how the prominent defenders of the arthouse community attempt to justify the meaningless violence and sexual exploitation that is present in ‘Antichrist.’  At what point does a movie stray from the confinement of exploitation to pornographic?  There is more nudity in this film than some pornographic adventures (most of the film features the two main actors completely derobed).  One has got to question how hygienic their genitals are after their escapades in the forest without properly showering afterward (thankfully, it doesn’t really matter in the end because their genitals end up mangled anyway).  Explicit scenes of a woman masturbating viciously in a forest strike me as something from a terrible pornographic rip-off of Pocahontas or The Jungle Book, not a mainstream movie.

The people that call this movie a ‘horror’ filmmaking are only half correct.  It is more suited to ‘horrible’ filmmaking.  An inconsistent display of polar opposites regarding what the director is aiming to achieve with his film – is it atmospheric or unsettling horror like The Ring, or is it more, in your face, over the top violence like the Saw or Hostel franchise that he is trying to achieve?  Such inconsistencies mar what could have been one of the most disturbingly eerie horror films of the decade.  Instead, by film’s end, a haphazard plot and shot selection usher in millions of weary eyed viewers asking, “what is the point?”  And I couldn’t agree more.

Score: 77/173.


One Comment

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  1. / Sep 19 2010 9:41 am

    Sounds like a movie I’ll have to check out.

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