Thursday, January 7, 2010

Review: Antichrist (2009)


Director: Lars von Trier
Starring: Willem DaFoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg

Lars von Trier is an interesting character who I don't really know much about, other than that his name really does not have a 'von' in it, and that he is known for being an absurdly pretentious yet also visionary director - which I cannot vouch for, as this is the first movie of his I've ever seen. Yes, Antichrist has certainly received a lot of attention, but how good is it really?

Well, the first question I have is, how the flying FUCK did Willem DaFoe go from the Spider-man movies and the fucking Boondock Saints to this?

The second one is, where else can horror go after this? To what new depths can it sink? As far as I'm concerned, this film is more or less the epitaph of horror. It might not be my personal favorite horror film of the last decade, but it is nevertheless a perfect portrait of the depravity that almost was, the squandered potential that could have been rolled up into one ball of misogynistic, livid hatred. It is a middle finger straight in the air at any kind of restraint on the genre. Antichrist is an incredibly disturbing and graphic film that pulls no punches and even adds a metric ton more on top of them. This film is horrifying, in the broadest, most basic sense of the word. Everything about it is unsettling and uneasy, masterfully suspenseful and terribly dire. With every scene, every line of dialogue, every silent moment, the viewer senses an unbelievable, dreamlike terror creeping up like an eruption of the horror genre's collective bowels. Regardless of your stomach for gore, your opinion of this director or whatever else, this film is bone-chillingly horrific. Just the premise behind it is enough: the sudden, random death of a child. There is no turning back.

I do not want to get too deep into the meaning behind this. It is a film in which grief is loosely explored by two people deep in the heart of a horrible tragedy. This makes less sense the more I think about it. It is a hazy portrait of vivid, thrashing evil and occult imagery that is honestly disturbing beyond belief. The woman is clearly the purveyor of the deeper evil, but what of the man? The misogyny here is pretty well spelled out, but I don't know, I took this movie in a broader sense, just a vehement portrait of human savagery in the wild - the devil's church, per se. This is a primal, nihilistic vision of the darkest corners and scraps of the human soul. This kind of story has certainly been done before, but the execution here is masterful enough for that not to matter. I really tried to find some kind of hole here, but the fact is, I couldn't. Those talking animals, the genital mutilation...these things on their own are strange, silly and disturbing, but in the context of the film they add to the dreamlike, hellish atmosphere.

People can say what they will about the implications, the messages, the pretentiousness; this movie will still be a stake in the heart of all lesser horror. Powerful, unforgettable and supremely horrific.