ANTICHRIST – The Dungeon Review!

antichristI attended a screening of Lars Von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’ on opening night of the Vancouver International Film Festival. Von Trier is a director who consistently creates a unique experience for the viewer. Thought-provoking, emotionally challenging and always intriguing. This is Von Trier’s first foray into the horror genre. Fans of his previous works should be prepared for something far more graphic and disturbing. There were numerous gasps and uncomfortable laughter at scenes that were obviously not intended to be humorous. ‘Antichrist’ has been knocking about in my head for three days. I kept reopening my notepad document and staring at the single sentence I wrote. It is certainly not an easy film to summarize.

still from antichrist

The cinematography is spectacular, featuring some of the most provocative and imaganitive shots I have ever seen. The film is divided into three chapters; Grief, Pain and Despair. I hadn’t read much about the film before going in, so I was really surprised by the opening scene. Assuming you’ve read little yourself, I dare not tell you about it. There are two separate events happening simultaneously, one causing agony and the other causing ecstasy. The camera goes back and forth between the two scenerios, each in slow motion. This is an extremely effective, visually stunning scene. It is an appropriate prologue for our first chapter, Grief. The film features only two characters, both of which remain nameless throughout. I will refer to them as husband and wife. The traumatic event in question causes the wife to faint and she spends a month in the hospital. The husband is a therapist and does not agree with the course of action regarding his wife’s treatment. He decides to bring her home, believing he can guide her through the healing process. Healing does not come easy in this place of remembered things. During the process he challenges her to confront her fears, which seem to stem from a place called Eden. A cottage in the woods where she had spent the previous summer working on her dissertation on medieval misogyny. Together they travel to this place of her darkest fears.

still from antichrist 2

There are graphic scenes of sex and violence throughout ‘Antichrist’. You see full penis penetration within minutes of the films start. There are numerous scenes where the couple engage in fevered sex initiated by the wife, in an attempt to mask her grief with lust. The candid sexuality in this film never felt loving, only masochistic. There are two scene’s of violence in particular that will be extremely difficult for many people to watch. I must admit to some wincing during one of the scenes myself, and I am far more weathered to violence than most.

Dafoe and Gainsbourg are brilliant. Dafoe’s character is very clinical in his approach, although he states he loves his wife, he exudes very little warmth. He is therapist first and husband second. Torn at times between his role as therapist and husband, he becomes frustrated with his wife’s progress stating to her “this will not do!” His wife accuses him of indifference and cites his absense from her trip taken the previous summer. At this point in the film, it seems that in her grief she wants nothing more than to lash out and hurt him. But as the film progresses it becomes apparent that the husband does not know the wife, and a distance had grown between them over the past several months, well before the tragedy. Gainsbourg is pain personified. Not only does she carry the grief, guilt and dispair of her own situation but those of every woman tortured, maimed and sacrificed. Her character is tragic, but is also completely and utterly mad. Somehow she manages to be frail and threatening all at once. She is unflinchingly brutal and terrifying.

still from antichrist 3

Von Trier injects plenty of expressionism into his reality. There are some startling images involving animals and nature that has an almost apocalyptic feel. I certainly do not claim to understand every moment of ‘Antichrist’, but there is definitely a heavy emphasis on religion, mythology and nature. Eden, quite unlike its portrayal in the bible, is a menacing place of fear and darkness. Nature is referred to as Satan’s church. A sound in the woods becomes the cry of all things that are about to die. Animals look you in the eye and speak, telling you that chaos reigns. In Lars Von Trier’s world, indeed it does.

‘Antichrist’ is an emotional and psychological mindblow that paints a bleak and violent picture of dispair and misery and the destructive nature of human beings. I’m not entirely sure who ‘Antichrist’ will appeal to. I loved this film, it challenged me, horrified me and its images have firmly engraved themselves on my brain. Highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Lars Von Trier

Starring: Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg

5 Responses to “ANTICHRIST – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. I sat this one at a 2.5 out of 5. The violence was way too harsh to enjoy but the film itself is spectacular. It looks incredible but is difficult to watch. I also had some trouble reviewing it and, still to this moment, can’t really decide if I loved it or hated it.

    • It is DEFINITELY not for everyone. I’m sure my husband would not have cared much for this. The friend I went with didn’t hate it, but I suspect the word ‘like’ would be stronger than he felt too. I loved it’s beauty, it’s rawness and it’s brutality. It’s been a long time since a film rocked my sensibilities like this one did.

  2. Thanks for your review. I’m looking forward to it, particularly Gainsbourg’s performance.

  3. […] #1. Antichrist ‘Antichrist’ is an emotional and psychological mind blow that paints a bleak and violent picture of despair and misery and the destructive nature of human beings. I loved this film, it challenged me, horrified me and its images have firmly engraved themselves on my brain. To read the full review click here. […]

  4. Can’t wait to see Antichrist!

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