FUCKED & DOOMED: “ANTICHRIST” REVIEWED
Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe
Written and directed by Lars von Trier
It’s easy to fall into hyperbole when discussing Antichrist. Stylistically it’s a triumph, with director Lars von Trier using black & white, a creepy sound design, ultra-slow motion and subliminal images to scary effect. The performances of stars Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe are stunning. And von Trier’s script and imagery (much of it based on his dreams) is haunting in a way which both follows and challenges horror conventions.
Simply put, Antichrist is both scary and scary good.
Gainsbourg and Dafoe play an unnamed couple grieving the death of their young son. Dafoe’s character is a therapist and so takes his wife to their country home, provocatively called Eden, to confront her fears and get over her grief. But she isn’t ready to let go of her guilt and turns her anguish on herself and her husband in ways which are both stomach-turning and deeply upsetting.
Von Trier is in total control here. He ratchets up tension with increasingly disturbing imagery and sounds as his characters get closer to their collapse into despair and insanity. He elucidates the differences between men and women through their very different responses to their child’s death: she wants to die; he wants to confront her feelings and avoid his own.
Throw in some occult suggestions and brief and exceedingly graphic (and sexually oriented) gore and you end up with a film that provokes me to write phrases like “this will scar your soul forever” and other equally purple prose.
Without over-intellectualizing, suffice it to say that Antichrist is strong stuff and a challenge to any horror fan bemoaning the dearth of original, provocative genre cinema.
Extras: eOne’s DVD seems to be virtually identical to the American Criterion release, minus an essay by film scholar Ian Christie. The commentary with von Trier and journalist Murray Smith is mildly infuriating given Smith’s obtuse line of questioning and the director’s having to suffer a fool gladly. But the multi-part making-of featurettes offer some genuinely interesting looks into the film’s production, while ‘The Evil of Woman’ and ‘Confessions About Anxiety’ explore its themes and origins.