I am well aware that no one who visits this site regularly gives a shit about the obscure movies I review. So knowing what a colossal waste of time such critiques are, it serves me well only to write them when dealing with movies which truly evoke a strong emotional reaction out of me.
Antichrist, to say the least, is such a film.
During a bout of passionate sex, a therapist (Willem Dafoe) and his writer wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) shut off the baby monitor to their young son’s room so as not to be disturbed. Things turn tragic when the precocious kid falls to his death from an open window.
After she collapses at the funeral, the therapist decides to take it upon himself to help his wife work through her grief by taking her to a deep woods cabin called Eden (get it?) where she spent the previous summer with her son working on a thesis paper about women through history, and whether they are intrinsically evil or simply misunderstood. Naturally, things turn ugly.
The movie was directed by Lars von Trier, a very daring and controversial Dutch director. While I am aware of his past work, this is the first movie of his I have actually seen, and I will acknowledge upfront he is a very talented filmmaker. Trier has created a moody, creepy and truly original film which deals with harsh topics such as loss, sex, grief and ego, and the end product produces several moments of intrigue and genuine terror.
Antichrist is also a truly uncompromising film. This is a movie that clearly could not exist if made by committee as most people would be turned off by this material, which features some of the most explicit sexual and violent images that have ever been seen.
Credit also must be given to Dafoe and Gainsbourg for taking on roles that would have likely turned off most of Hollywood. As almost literally the only two actors in the film, they are exposed and paraded around in the most graphic ways imaginable. Despite the nature of the performances, both actors are surprisingly good, though I’m not sure I will ever be able to watch either one of them in anything again (the thought of, “boy, Willem Defoe really needs to trim his pubic hair,” is not one I ever anticipated having).
But ultimately, I think the uncompromisingly brutal nature of the movie is its undoing. As the couple spends more time in the woods, their relationship, in particular the husband’s attempt to council the grieving wife back to health, goes horribly wrong and as she starts to identify with some of the more gruesome subjects she dealt with in her writings, she becomes increasingly unstable.
So does the film.
About 1 hr. and 15 min. in, after the wife becomes fearful the husband is going to abandon her, a struggle ensues, which results in a scene of stunning and subversive violence, which I promise will disturb any male of any species who sees it. The segment was so alarming, it instantly catapulted to the top of my list of the most repulsive movie scenes I had ever witnessed…a spot it held for all of 15 minutes.
What happened next shocked me in a way which I have never been, nor ever again hope to be, shocked before. I won’t speak specifically of the content of this scene, one because I hate spoilers, but also because I fear if I actually typed out what transpires, we here at Everyview would have to officially register ourselves as a pornographic site. Anyone reading this will just have to take my word that even if you dig into the most repugnant areas of your mind, you will not even come close to picturing the degradation depicted in this film (and if you do, I simply do not want to know you).
So despite how brave and intermittently thrilling this movie is, it’s ultimately just dark and empty. After the second scene mentioned above, I honestly could not focus on anything that transpired in the movie’s final 15 minutes. And when I went back to re-watch the ending (words cannot describe just how cautious I was during the rewinding process), it seemed vague and pretentious, and I certainly don’t think it justified the savagery that preceded it.
As an objective film watcher, regardless of my personal feelings towards the movie’s violence, I have to acknowledge it to be, at the very least, a partial success. Obviously van Trier and the actors were aware they were making a disturbing movie and the fact that I likely won’t be forgetting what I saw until long after I’m dead means they did what they set out to do in that regard.
That said, isn’t it counterproductive to make a movie where two scenes dominate your memory so strongly it makes the rest of the movie seem trivial? Ultimately, I felt like I had spent 110 minutes watching a very talented sadist hook me with a compelling storyline only to point and snicker as he was subjecting me to repulsive elements I never wanted to see. It’s exactly like when a college friend uses the “I have something amazing to show you” line as a way to trick you into walking in on his deranged roommate masturbating to a syndicated episode Gilmore Girls.
Had this movie been shown to the main character in Clockwork Orange to help him tire of violence, he would have been cured in 10 seconds. I would estimate more than 99% of the world’s population isn’t adventurous enough in its cinematic taste to get anywhere near this movie, so any review of it would be a waste of their time. But what about the less than 1% who may be bold enough to take a chance on Antichrist? Would I recommend this to them?
No. No I would not.
I honestly don’t have a score to give this movie. While I certainly didn’t enjoy it, I cannot deny the skill of display. I know there is a small percentage of the artsy cinema world (a demographic which, unfortunately, pays this site no mind) who see this movie as a masterpiece, and it’s that sort of divisiveness which actually helped me summon the courage to watch in the first place. Truth be told, I almost hope this review will encourage someone to seek out this movie, as I feel debating it would offer me more fun than either watching or reviewing it did.
But as a final warning to anyone who would watch Antichrist in spite of my criticism, be damn sure you know the limits of what you can handle. Otherwise you may be appalled beyond belief waiting for von Trier to make a cut that simply doesn’t come (to anyone whose actually seen the movie, I assure you I intend no pun).
Final Score: N/A