Friday, August 27, 2010

Review: Antichrist

Non Spoiler Review:
Antichrist is the latest film from Lars Von Trier, a well known director from Denmark, who's earlier work, a miniseries called The Kingdom is something in the vein of a Scandinavian Twin Peaks. His material is usually very bizarre, and not for everyone, and this film is no exception.

Extremely controversial, Antichrist stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. It is a very intimate film, dealing with this married couple who's actions result in the death of their son (in the opening sequence of the movie). What follows is a disturbing, psychological horror story as they try to come to terms with their grief, and specifically the wife's grief. They head off into the woods (called Eden) to work out the process, leading to some nightmarish results.

This film is unlike anything I've seen before. It is very much an art piece, full of amazing, beautifully shot vistas, lazy scenes of characters slowly moving against the enormity of the stunning natural background. Scenes of horror are laid out like a painting on a canvas, to be contemplated, rather than unfolding for pure shock value (though there's enough of that, as well!).

Antichrist plays off the Medieval idea of womanhood as a wild, chaotic element tied to the evil of the natural world, contrasted with the cold logic of the male—exemplified by the rationalism of Dafoe's psychiatrist character. Seemingly supernatural elements are injected in at odd moments, helping to throw the viewer off balance. Is this a psychological horror movie, or are there actual hellish influences at work?

Antichrist is also the most disturbing movie I've seen, and that includes comparisons to any slasher film. This is very much a hardcore film, including a sex act in the opening sequence that tells you right away this is not going to be like anything you've experienced before. Halfway through the movie, as events begin to spiral out of control for the two characters, be prepared for the most graphic scenes of mutilation I've seen in any movie.

That being said, I can't deny the artistic value of the film as it was quite compelling (once I managed to unwind from the intensity of the scenes). The dynamic between the husband and wife plays out very well, slowly ramping up the tension as the viewer knows something is not quite right with them. 

Antichrist is a memorable film, grotesquely beautiful and filled with complex and disturbing themes. The ending is sure to inspire some thoughtful debate, but it is not for the weak of heart!

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