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This movie drained me...
Without a doubt the most unpleasant and despairing movie I've ever watched. It's not just the graphic imagery that got to me, but the overall tone of the movie was incredibly dreadful and you could almost feel a presence of some sort of "evil".
This is a hard movie to review. It crosses all barriers when it comes to movie making...ALL. It makes you question yourself about what art is and if there's anything as going "too far"?
But don't dismiss this. It's certainly much more than just being graphic for the sake of it. First off, the cinematography is absolutely flawless. The opening scene had me in absolute awe. Beautiful... And my deepest respect to Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsburg. I could only imagine how much this would drain the actors both mentally and physically. They are amazing and deserve Oscars.
I have to mention the violence too, since it's a critical aspect. This isn't "torture porn" of any kind. It's natural (it's looks almost too realistic), physical sexual violence. That's why it works so effective on the audience. You can almost feel their pain. Never before have I watched a movie where I felt the urge to look away. You would think that, in the end, all this violence and self molestation is just a shock tactic, but I assure you it's not. There is actually a plot and a sensible progression of the movie. I of course won't say too much. People need to see it.
I can understand why some people wouldn't like it, and that's okay. This is most definitely not for everyone.
It may not be a movie that made me feel good, but it made feel something and had an effect on me. It's beautiful, sad, poetic, horrific and in the end, oddly uplifting. A genre masterpiece.
A must see.
First I have to make a comment to cynibun from United States who wrote
"And if you look at the previous reviewers they are from Denmark, where
the director is from. Perhaps you have to be Danish to appreciate the
horrific torture pornography, who knows??... Americans have more sense
thankfully, and do not call everything art simply because the director
is foreign." I have no idea why it should matter where the other
reviewers are from. That has nothing to do with "Antichrist" as a film.
Some like it and some don't, no matter what country they are from. If I
don't like an American film I don't go out and bash on reviewers from
America and then state that Danes have more sense - what's that all
about? Sense of what? Personally I don't think it makes much sense
making movies like "American Pie" or "Hannah Montana", but hey, they
produce the films anyway - maybe because they have more sense. Hannah
Montana makes a LOT of sense... And you don't have to come from Denmark
to like "Antichrist" (though it is a very constructive statement), I'm
guessing there is one or two people from Russia or Poland who likes the
Back to Lars Von Trier and "Antichrist". First of all - I don't know why everybody keeps saying this film is a gore fest. "Uhhh it's so brutal, violent and extremely gory". What? Okay, there's more blood than in "Hannah Montana" but if "Antichrist" is a sick and gory film, I don't know what you would call films like "Ichi The Killer", Naked Blood", "Inside" and "Audition"? There is more blood/gore in "Se7en" than in "Antichrist" (or maybe the same amount), so I don't know what all the fuzz is about... Anyway... I loved the film!!! When I left the theater I didn't know quite what to think, but it grows and becomes better and better. It's a fantastic work of art, the cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle is amazing and the whole feel of the film is both beautiful and scary at the same time. Willem Dafoe is at his best in this one.
I guess you have to have an open mind when watching this. The film does not give any answers and is rich on symbolism - guess one could call it "experimental horror-drama". Lars Von Trier is back in his hypnotic visual style and mindfuc*ing storytelling, and this is where he is best! Not a film for the mainstream audiences, but I recommend it if you have an open mind and want something new and different, and have (almost) as much sense as Americans.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Where does horror reside in the psyche?
Lars von Trier has established himself as a maker of serious, avant-garde drama. He came to fame through Breaking the Waves, a controversial story of how far someone would go for love. He founded the Dogme movement of verite cinema, and made The Idiots, where lunacy and sanity are cleverly mixed. Next came Dancer in the Dark, an almost Janacek-like musical where a blind girl takes inner fantasy to extremes. There were experiments like The Five Obstructions, and two highly theatrical Brechtian pieces called Dogville and Manderlay, with chalklines instead of sets. One of the few uncontroversial films he has made is Boss of it All, an extremely clever comedy that didn't receive much attention.
If someone like von Trier makes a horror movie, it is hardly likely to be standard fare. He makes films that provide himself and his audiences with thorny intellectual challenges. This results both in adherents and those which dismiss his work as pretentious. (Inasmuch as this review is partly interpretative, other viewers may find their own preferred readings which differ from the approach given here.) With Antichrist, although there are standard 'fright' moments, the main horror is deep psychological manipulation that stays with you for days afterwards. Instead of lashings of gore that can retrospectively be dismissed as 'more CGI,' von Trier seems to do exactly the opposite of what a Freudian psychotherapist would do in releasing obsessions. He locks the terrifying nature of the horror to the most extreme sexual images. The narrative itself follows a similar process. A psychotherapist, with the best intentions, leads his wife into the darkest recesses of her mind. But instead of releasing psychological trauma, he reinforces it, until he has to defend himself when she becomes the controlling force.
A psychotherapist (Willem Dafoe) and his wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) are making love as their young toddler climbs onto a desk to look at snowflakes outside. And falls to his death. This opening prologue is operatic in its soundtrack and intensity. Exquisite monochrome photography captures water droplets in slow motion to Handel. There is a very brief, aesthetically contextualised glimpse of penetration, setting the audience up for the psycho-sexual horrors that follow later. In the trauma of bereavement, He asks his wife to visualise her worst nightmares in order to help her overcome them. She pictures the woods as symbolising her fear, and they both retreat to an 'Eden' an isolated cabin surrounded by woods.
The film is divided into six parts, including a Prologue (the lovemaking and death), Grief, Pain, and Despair; The Three Beggars, and an Epilogue. At the end of the prologue, the next three chapters are heralded by three toy soldiers from the dead son's toyroom, each appropriately named.
With Grief, comes very palpable sorrow from both leads. The players become substantial rather than dramatis personae. Colour is added to the previously monochrome palette, literally and in terms of filling out their characters.
As we go through Pain, his wife seems eventually cured. Our nerves, however, are frayed. This is compounded by the rhythmic, hypnotic pounding of acorns falling on the roof of the cabin, and his irritating but inescapable smugness as he treats his wife as a patient rather than a human being needing support. He forever has a self-satisfied, smart answer. Retreating to her own area of expertise, she comes out with ever more unanswerable metaphors, including, "Nature is Satan's Church." (She had been working previously on a book about 'Gynocide' and witch-hunts). The chapter finally introduces openly surreal elements, when a fox is unearthed. (The cunningness of foxes suggests a reliance on logic, whereas the subconscious can rely more on symbols, introducing chaos to a 'logical world.') Chapter three is entitled Despair (Gynocide). He learns things about his wife he didn't know before but perhaps should have. He is pulled into her nightmare. We see him soaked in the rain, at the mercy for the first time of the elements. The fourth chapter gives form to the imaginary content of the preceding three, and includes the most upsetting and outrageous scenes (which some viewers will find objectionable). The epilogue provides a narrative and psychological resolution in the only way possible when things have come to such a head. We also see the story relate now to the whole of humanity.
The title of the film contains far more than is at first apparent, although there is also some weakness for the film there. In ancient (pre-'Christian') mythology, the 'Christos' was the enlightened soul within, a central experience of the Gnostic 'heretics.' Their pure aspiration enflamed prayer to reach this exalted realisation. The danger, of course, was that they would mistake an experience along the way for the 'ultimate truth' and become 'obsessed.' This also relates to why so many mystics and spiritual seekers form their own sects. From a Roman Catholic viewpoint, it might be used to explain many different churches that fall short of the ultimate authority. Von Trier is a lapsed Catholic, and describes himself as increasingly atheist. He has said he keeps a copy of Nietzsche's Antichrist at his bedside. In Nietzschean terms, any (traditional) religious conviction is an obsession that falls short of ultimate truth. In New Testament orthodoxy, an Antichrist is what (or who) precedes the Second Coming. Obsession as a temptation along the way works in all mythologies. Psychologically, this is simple description of a process in the mind. But von Trier's use of Christian symbols complicates the issue and obfuscates an elaborate tragedy that is already nearly Shakespearean in its format.
Antichrist is sure to get reactions, even from audiences not geared to his work. For them, the extreme and graphic sexual imagery may be a psychological device too far. For others, among whom are a rare breed of horror aficionados that enjoy a challenge while being outraged and violated, it is a gem of inestimable value.
An eerie yet gorgeous tapestry of lingering close-ups; parallels, cuts
and slow-motion photography, Lars Von Trier's Antichrist is a gruelling
tale of mythical grandeur: a bizarre yet beautiful film chock full of
sadism and shagging, Satanic dogma and similes. Most of which, I don't
understand. So you'll be pleased to know that I have no intention of
harping on about the director's bent meditation on gender, nature,
genocide, motherhood, misogyny and astronomy. I find all that stuff
interesting, don't get me wrong, but when things get Freudian I'm way
out of my league. Therefore, I'll stick to what I know.
Albeit seething with emotion, Antichrist refuses to adhere to some of the general "rules" of the classical Hollywood narrative, meaning it lacks clarity, unity and closure. For example, there're only two characters, both of which remain nameless and have indefinite; pasts, motives and are somewhat difficult to identify with. The film rejects conventional morality. It is a difficult and uncomfortable experience that'll unnerve even the most robust of film fans. So if you like your films light, clear and conservative, stay away. If, however, you're a fan of, say, Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now, director David Lynch or you just dig a bit of alternative cinema, then brace yourself for a hugely demanding tableau that film critic Anita Singh of the Sunday Telegraph dubbed "the most shocking film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival." Willem Dafoe plays "he", a therapist and husband to "she" (Charlotte Gainsbourg), the female half of the cast whose line of work we never really learn. After a quite miraculous opening montage that juxtaposes the couple making love with the accidental death of their child, the embedded tale follows the pair as they flee to "Eden", their isolated cabin in the woods, where "he" attempts to aid a severely grief stricken "she" through her bereavement.
Book-ended by a masterfully conceived prologue and epilogue and split into four focal chapters entitled "Grief", "Pain", "Despair" and "The Three Beggars" (don't ask), the film takes on a ghostlike tone from the outset as the boundaries between the real and surreal become blurred. Alas, things get weird, edgy and very, very nasty. The sheer mass and rate of dense motifs and metaphors at hand regarding sex, Freud, the devil and the soul is a little overwhelming. Not to mention the force and intensity of both Dafoe and Gainsbourg's turns in addition to the film's strong, emotional undercurrent.
In spite of large and sustained periods of quite brilliant film-making, Antichrist contains some of the most violent and deplorable images ever committed to celluloid. For the ladies there's self mutilation. For the gents there's I, I, I can't even say it. Put it this way, it ain't good lads Anyway, add to the unthinkable gore a whole host of outlandish set-ups, half a dozen scenes of a sexual nature and one or two jolts in tone and you'll be scared silly. Remember- sometimes in cinema, you fear what you don't understand, especially when the camera is an unflinching eye inside the head of a disturbed, Danish poet. Lars Von Trier is an excellent filmmaker, but even his biggest fans will find it hard to swallow this, never mind stomach it.
Dedicated to the memory of legendary soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, Antichrist is truly as haunting, delicate and poetic a film as you're ever bound to see. Though shrouded in scenes of unspeakable cruelty, the film eludes to the work of Tarkovsky in a big way: Von Trier's warped Adam and Eve parable is a moody, metaphysical affair cloaked in hypnotic, dreamlike imagery that calls to mind the likes of Mirror, Solaris and the brilliant Stalker. The trancelike photography; sound, score, and editing demonstrate a predilection for atmospheric, art-theatre sensibility. Tarkovsky would have loved it. This, after all, is a film that simply has to be seen to be believed. Not necessarily for its aesthetic grandeur, gore or technique, but for its harrowing portrayal of a soul in torment.
What's it all about? Who cares?! Antichrist is an unusual, atmospheric horror film that's guaranteed to provoke. The performances are honest and strong, the aesthetics are bold, the direction is brilliant and the outcome is something that is ultimately hard to come by these days: authentic film-making.
Antichrist is an excellent and not often seen chance to see a magnificent piece of art. The director Lars Von Trier has always attempted to go beyond the limits of what could be shown in a movie without compromising his artistic vision. And in antichrist he succeeds. A sometimes hard and gruelling movie to watch - I am at this point, a mere 1½ hour after exciting the movie theater, still deeply affected by the fantastic imagery and the cruel nauseating violence and self molestation. This is definitely a must see movie - if not for anything else, then at least for the splendid acting performances and the absolutely genius photographing. Von Trier has succeeded in creating a movie that is going to shock and must likely offend - but also assure movie buffs like myself - that there are still movie directors about that knows how to create masterpieces in a time where mainstream seems to be all there is.
First, let me just say that although I consider Antichrist a 5 star
film - I understand that it's not for everyone. It's pretty clear why
most people would not enjoy it.
First of all, it is entirely a piece of art. Most people don't pick up movies hoping for what could be considered a painting which just happens to be moving, for an hour and 40 minutes. But, that's how I see this movie and I personally appreciate art films more than mindless "entertainment" (ala explosions, fast cars - and worst of all - characters who are seemingly unable to have conversations with any depth or personality in general). You have an open mind and a certain amount of depth to appreciate this movie.
Second, the amount of explicit sex and violence brings modern film to a new height... And based off of what you read about this movie, it's clear that MOST people cannot handle it (Hundreds walked out of the early film festival showings earlier this year). Understandably. I haven't had my hand over my mouth, fighting so hard to keep looking at the theater screen...probably in all my life.
I have NEVER seen such grotesque violence involving genitalia in a serious movie... only Troma movies and the like. We're talking straight up trash art. But this movie is anything but trash art - There are big brains behind it, insane theories and thoughts, and one of the most well acclaimed directors of our time in control of it all.
It pisses me off when so many people try to call the movie pretentious - since when is flat out getting creative and doing what you want to do, and expressing things the way you feel them as a director... since when is that pretentious??? We need to appreciate the small amount of legit directors who are still making art films and getting them into theaters... Soon, actual personality in film will be extinct if the industry keeps heading in the direction it is...
Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg easily carry the entire film almost completely on their own. They don't have too much of a personality but it's because they're not supposed to - they are just vessels or bodies, representing the terrible emotions they are feeling as they try to recover from the grief felt by the death of their only child. Not only emotions... but even more so, they represent human nature and how it causes us to react to terrible things - and the fact that there is nothing we can do about it...
OK... I'm getting carried away already. I could go on and on.
Antichrist may genuinely be the darkest, most morbid film I have ever seen. It's definitely the most brutal. It's easily the most horrifying experience of the year. If you're smart, Antichrist will scar you.
The feeling of dread was unbearable. I haven't felt so effected in a long time.
Antichrist is completely worthy of it's name. It's pure evil. And I love it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lars Von Trier directs "AntiChrist", a film comprised of six clear
Prologue: Whilst a husband and wife have sex at home, their toddler climbs out a window and falls to his death. In the film, the husband is a therapist and is known simply as He. Similarly, the wife is a researcher into the history of witchcraft and is known simply as She. Note: He is played by Willem Dafoe, who famously portrayed Jesus Christ in Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ".
Chapter one (Grief): She collapses at her child's funeral and is hospitalised. He takes over her treatment, believing that He can cure her with the miracles of Science. His theory is that she must "re-live her deepest fears". She says she associates fear with Eden, a cabin in the woods where she spent the previous summer trying to finish her dissertation on "Gynocide" (the killing of women). The duo travel to Eden (the Biblical cradle of mankind) and hike through the woods. He sees a deer whose stillborn fawn is still partly contained in its womb. At this stage, Mother and Child, Nature and Woman, aren't yet at war.
Chapter two (Pain): He directs her in therapeutic exercises. "I understand that everything beautiful is perhaps hideous," she says. "All things cry, all things die." Out walking, He sees a wounded fox which speaks: "chaos reigns."
Chapter three (Despair): He discovers that She was deliberately injuring their child. Why? He confronts her. She knocks her husband unconscious, batters his genitals, masturbates him, and bolts a lathe wheel onto his leg. He manages to crawl into a foxhole where he finds an injured bird. It is unable to fly, he is unable to walk, both creatures bound to the land. Hands reach out from the Earth, man and nature re-embrace.
Chapter four (The Three Beggars): It is revealed that she was watching their son as he climbed up to the window. She let the kid die. She mutilates her own genitals with scissors. Her scream alerts the deer, fox, and bird, which come to the cabin. Seeing Him about to extract the wheel, she stabs him. He fights back, strangles her, and burns her corpse on a pyre. A modern man of science becomes a medieval witch hunter.
Epilogue: He limps away from Eden. Human bodies litter the landscape. He watches a host of women, their faces smudged, climb up a wooded hillside. Film ends.
Confused? Bergman on cocaine, "AntiChrist" is essentially the result of director Lars Von Trier's very public rejection of religion (which followed a prolonged bout of depression). An act of embracing a certain existential hopelessness, the film also sees Von Trier penalising himself for all the "wrongs" of Catholicism. In this regard, the film calls itself anti-Christ because it is broadly against Christ, Willem Dafoe becoming a collapsed version of pseudo-science and Christianity who is symbolically castrated and turned over to a hostile world in which Nature, wild and vicious, becomes the atheist's new Godhead. Von Trier then fetishizes his newfound pessimism (the ugly cruelty of nature, vagina, birth, death etc), the Godhead - more Satan than Saviour - symbolically sodomising the holy child back out of Mary whilst faceless women are resurrected from the very bowels of the Earth.
Everything is now wrong and we are already in hell. Nature has revealed itself as the relentlessly cruel, profoundly disgusting and indifferent monster it always was. Human nature is even worse, and women are as disturbed and disturbing as anything because they are nature embodied, able to create, bound to the cosmic cycles of menstruation, pregnancy and birth. Discovering this leads the wife to self hatred, self-mutilation and infanticide. Destroy the penis and the vagina and end the spread of Satan's church. Like Godard's masterpiece, "Hail Mary", Von Trier's women perceive themselves as being controlled, raped and duped by a Nature which does nothing but inscribe its will upon all bodies. She tries to fight back, to kill her child, but it's futile. You do not belong to "yourself". Everything about you is contingent upon the Beast.
The film is graphic, but more so for the paradoxes it raises. Men find it hard to reconcile the comforting warmth of the vagina with the monstrosity it becomes at birth. Menstration is itself now ambiguous, the regular heavy flow of blood stymied by a world of plastic bags, sanitized hospitals, air fresheners and pre-cooked meat. Female nature is likewise experienced in a bizarre, almost entirely individualised way. Biology, sex, defecation, in their raw and visceral states, have receded back into the realm of the private and the professionally managed. Eyes are shut. Doors are closed.
When the couple are later kept awake by acorns falling on the roof of the cabin, She tells Him that it takes a hundred years for an oak to reproduce itself just once. The tragedy of the only child dying is the fear of the modern age. Less than a century ago, over-investment in any given child would potentially be a massive waste of time - far better to churn them out and hope that some survive. Nature: brutally pragmatic.
"Antichrist" is not, however, straightforwardly an anti-Christian film. It is a heretical film in the Gnostic non-tradition. There is no hope, no salvation, no righting of order, a fact which brought about a profound state Antonioni-like depression in Lars Von Trier. But Despair, Grief and Pain (the 3 encountered animals), as Dafoe's character points out, don't even exist. There is no separating the natural from the unnatural, right from wrong, life from death.
7.5/10 "Blair Witch Project" with a sprinkling of Herzog, Antonioni, Bergman and Dreyer, "Antichrist" fails to both produce a new mythology of despair or even horror. Of course its scenes of mutilation and have a visceral power, but this is cheaply achieved. Worth two viewings.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Films invariably provoke emotions on the part of the viewer. I have
been shocked, awed, amused, saddened and comforted by a feature length
before but never have I been so annoyed. For the hour and 40 I was sat
in my seat I was bombarded by a free-fall of blatant and obvious
metaphors sandwiched between edited clips of the selfish tripe that was
flowing from His and Her "grief-addled" minds.
The cinematography was brilliant, the shots were beautifully composed, most wouldn't be out of place as still images on their own. The sound and post production was perfect, a litany of heart thudding moments and breath holding captured by the crescendo of rushing winds and thudding acorns. But even these can't make up for the fallacies of the storyline.
He never left his therapist mindset. Even with his leg weighted with concrete, or as he was strangling his patient his face was blank. The film was essentially all about Her and her evolving stance on women, nature and their corresponding evil.
I'm sure a film student would love to study this piece as the bulls**t they could write on how sex juxtaposed with a dead tree symbolises this and that till the end of days. And indeed, the people who rated this film highly have plenty to wax lyrical about, but I didn't want to be force fed Freudian messages through talking foxes and circumcision via scissors as I find it a tedious affront on my intelligence and ability to come to my own conclusions.
This movie is violent and very sexually graphic, bordering at times on
artistic but hardcore pornography; but it isn't lurid for the sole
purpose of scandal. "Gory" appropriately describes some sections of
this film but the word by no means encapsulates it.
If one is willing to stomach the periodic revulsion of watching this movie from beginning to end with a thoughtful and mature perspective they will find that it is full of symbolism, foreshadowing, and the kind of characterization that brings great success to novels. Few movies, in fact, possess the level of depth that Antichrist does. The movie isn't packed with moral insight but that doesn't preclude it from being intellectually engaging and, as a consequence, genuinely entertaining. One will also realize that the violent and sexual content is never pure excess. The gory scenes, though sickening, are always important in some way to the main themes of the movie.
At several points during the course of this film I couldn't help but rewind it to watch a scene again, discuss it in greater depth with my friends, attempt to extricate the finer details that are present in abundance both at the surface and underneath.
To anybody that tries to berate this movie as the deranged product of excessively liberal foreigners I must point you to movies like Saw, which drew American crowds young and old for numerous sequels that were basically just series' of elaborate and gruesome torture scenes, sometimes clever but never much more than that.
There is more to Antichrist than meets the eye, and I highly recommend it to anybody looking for a horror/suspense film that engages more than just the reptilian parts of the brain.
Lars Von Trier is a director who's always been going his own ways, and this can definitely be seen in this movie. Antichrist is a movie that doesn't hold anything back when it comes to gore, and the stuff that you see in the film won't leave your mind the next couple of days. But the movie itself is much more than that... The movie is beautifully shot, the story and setting extremely uncomfortable and the acting is fantastic. The movie is sometime painful to watch, not in a "Saw" or "Hostel" kind of way, but when you leave the theater you feel genuinely uncomfortable, and that is one of the reasons why i liked this movie. It's a movie like nothing i've experienced and I'm glad that we have directors like Lars Von Trier that dares to make a film like this. It's nothing like the mainstream movies that are being made nowadays, and it makes your mind race when you leave the theater, something very few movies does. You aren't served with facts, as with any other movies, but are left to interpret and think for yourself. It's a bizarre movie and not one for the faint of heart, but if you dare to be provoked and see a movie like nothing you've ever seen, then go see Antichrist.
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