After seeing this film Friday night at the RPL, it has taken a couple of days for me to gather my thoughts on the film.
I went in forewarned, I already knew that there is some terrible things that happen in the course of the film and what they were. After all it's a Lars von Trier film. All his films are uncomfortable to watch.
But what is the film really about? This is von Trier's horror film so it is horrifying but the point of the film seems elusive.
On the surface it seems to be about He (Willem Dafoe) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) as they try to work through the grief of losing their child. The film is told in six parts. A prologue which is shot in black in white with Handel's Rinaldo playing. It's in slow motion as He and She make love while their kid gets up and falls out of an open window. The rest of the film is in colour and features some of the most amazing cinematography I've seen in a while.
Chapter One: Grief deals with She as she is hospitalized after the funeral. She can't seem to deal with the grief. She is kept on drugs on the advice of her doctor but He is a therapist and takes it upon himself to make her better. He does this in a cold and clinical manner. She: "You were always distant." He: "Give me an example." He draws a chart as She moves through her grief and into anxiety. The chart is suppose to be about her fears. The only fear that she can come up with is a fear of the forest. So he decides to take her to their cabin in the woods called Eden.
Chapter Two: Pain (Chaos Reigns) They make it out to Eden. Before they arrive, He makes She describe what it will be like once she arrives. As they walk to the cabin He sees a deer in the forest with a dead baby deer coming out it.
Chapter Three: Despair (Gynocide) Things start getting worse. He discovers that She's thesis was about the persecution of women during the witch trials and that She has come to some disturbing conclusions about nature and human nature. She: "Nature is Satan's church." Many horrible things begin to happen. Some are too horrible to describe.
The final two parts of the film are entitled Chapter Four: The Three Beggars and Epilogue which ends the film the same way as the Prologue.
On top of all the terrible stuff that I had heard about, it also occurred to me that the film seems to be misogynistic. Looking at von Trier's films, all his movies seem to be misogynistic. Breaking the Waves has Emily Watson getting brutally rapped because God likes rape apparently. Dancer in the Dark has Bjork's life just get worse and worse until the horrible ending. (Also von Trier drove Bjork into a breakdown while shooting that film to the point where she swore that she'd never act again.)
Dogville and Manderlay once again treated the women pretty shabby, although von Trier is tough an all his actors.
And yet here is a filmmaker that turned his major film studio into the first film company to produce porn for women.
But despite all the shock and horror of Antichrist, I'm not sure what this film is really saying. She seems to have suffered Münchausen syndrome by proxy and He doesn't seem to be really helping her or really noticing what is truly wrong with her. The film almost deserves a repeated viewing to appreciate all the subtle references but who really wants to subject one's self to such extreme gore? My friend that I went to the film with closed his eyes and looked away at a particular scene but has since complained that he can't get the imagine out of his head and he didn't even see it.
I revisited John Ford's The Searchers just recently and I was watching Martin Scorsese, John Milius and Curtis Hanson discuss the film on the special features. They had mentioned how dark and violent the film was. In one scene John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter have returned to farm and have discovered it had been attacked by the natives and is burning to the ground. Wayne finds Aunt Martha's bloody dress and looks into a shack - discovering her body. Ford doesn't show anything but Wayne looking into the building and then knocking out Hunter before he can look in. Milius pointed out that whatever happened is left our imaginations and that it's so terrible that even the Duke doesn't want to look.
I've always known that it isn't always necessary to show graphic of violence. But in this case it's seems to over power the film. Whatever point von Trier wants to make is overshadowed by the graphic violence.
It seems that Hollywood is content with being bland. It's nothing but film after film of annoying CGI singing chipmunks and non-offensive action films. On the other side of the equation, there seems to be more and more independent filmmakers who feel that they must shock audiences awake. Michael Winterbottom’s (9 Songs) latest film The Killer Inside is another example of this extreme reaction.
There doesn't seem to be any happy medium anymore, dull action films like Avatar or films like this.
And I still don't know what to make of Antichrist.