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Entries in Antichrist [2009] (1)


Antichrist (2009)

Wave of (Genital) Mutilation

When one sits down to watch a movie called Antichrist, one might expect to see a little devil kid running around; maybe a cool demon creature wreaking havoc; more than likely some kind of cult trying to bring about the end of the world. Chances are, one would not expect to see Willem Dafoe’s cock entering his co-star in slow motion during the first forty-five seconds of a black-and-white prologue.

Then again, this is a Lars von Trier film. Before watching Antichrist, I knew very little about the Danish auteur; I’d heard he specialized in sparse art-house fare with bleak storylines and big-name actors debasing themselves for the craft—or something. And it doesn’t get more art-house than a nearly two-hour movie involving only two actors who fight and cry and have sex in the woods—woods beset by ominous acorn storms and populated by demented spirit animals that eat their own innards and gallivant with half-born babies hanging out their rears. Antichrist is a bizarre and astonishing movie. It also happens to be great.

The point of that slow-motion prologue is to establish a tragedy that befalls a married couple, He (Dafoe) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg). During a rigorous bout of intercourse, their young son crawls out of his crib and wanders into their bedroom; he reaches for a statue in the window, slips, and falls to his death. We then jump to a world of color and normal pacing, but just barely.

He is a therapist who believes he can pull his wife from the depths of severe depression. She is a student who thinks her husband sees her as more of a project than a person. He decides to bring her to their cabin in the woods for some therapeutic exercises. She reluctantly agrees, knowing that the secrets she’s been keeping at the cabin make the trip a very bad idea.

Watching Antichrist is both frustrating and revelatory. It’s amazing how much good will a director can build with gorgeous, spooky imagery, while bogging down the audience in conversation after conversation after conversation of unlikable people discovering how much they can’t stand each other. I had a really hard time buying that He and She would have lasted long enough as a couple to have their dirty laundry come spilling out only in the aftermath of their son’s death; I’m not saying that there aren’t relationships that drag on for, say, five years between two wholly un-self-aware, screwed-up people, but He and She felt more like platforms for a shaky thesis on gender stereotypes than actual people that I’m supposed to care about. Thank God Dafoe and Gainsbourg are so magnificent in their roles.

I’m inclined to criticize a movie where I don’t see the actors as characters, but rather as actors acting. But with Antichrist, I got so caught up in the physicality and raw power of the performances that I only rarely paused to think, “Hmm. I guess it doesn’t make sense that they keep pulling off their clothes and humping after having these nasty arguments.” I can’t defend the writing, but I think the people carrying out von Trier’s vision deserve tremendous credit for making a polemic disguised as hard-hitting drama compelling.

By this point in the review, you’re probably wondering where the “Antichrist” part comes in, and what’s up with the supernatural animals. Well, I’m going to make you keep wondering. If you’re really curious, and think you can handle the journey, I beg you to seek out this movie.

I will say that Antichrist is like the art-house Evil Dead. At a certain point, it takes a drastic turn and becomes a shocking (I’m talking hand-to-the-mouth shocking) horror movie.

Aw, hell, I can’t keep this to myself. Without getting into plot points, I’ll say that, through a series of unfortunate events, He and She end up having sex (again) in a shed behind the cabin. She freaks out because she doesn’t believe he loves her, and—while riding on top of him—reaches for a sizable chunk of firewood. She hops off and slams the wood onto his erect penis. He passes out, and She continues to pump his member with her hand. After a few seconds, he ejaculates blood all over her shirt.

Please keep in mind that I’m not speaking about things that happen off-camera. There are no allusions to these events. They’re shown, using the best prosthetics I’ve seen outside of Greg Nicotero’s effects shop. I was so disgusted and scarred by this movie that I may never touch myself below the belt again.

And don’t worry, ladies, there’s plenty of good stuff for you in this movie, too. Ever ask yourself how easily a sharp pair of scissors might sever a clitoris? Watch Antichrist and wonder no more!

I highly recommend this film, but I can’t articulate why, at the moment. If you’re a fan of great acting, beautiful camerawork, and twisted mysteries; and if you can stand long stretches of therapy sessions between two people who have no business being together; and if you don’t mind kind of hating yourself for a couple days afterwards—then, by all means, check out Antichrist today. I guarantee you’ll spend the last twenty minutes muttering to yourself, over and over again, “Jesus!”