101 Love or Hate films? “Antichrist”

If anyone hasn’t seen “Antichrist” and is keen on watching this movie, please bear in mind it is not your average horror film. It is graphic and occasionally pornographic. It has blood and gore, and some scenes that even a well versed horror fan like myself had to turn away, but there are no idiotic teenagers going down into the cellar, or vampiric spirits trying to break in through the front door.

You will not see the son of the devil here, although you will see some pretty horrific stuff. Lars Von Trier’s multi-award winning film owes much more to the Takashi Miike film “Audition” than it does to The Omen.

The film is split into six segments, but in effect there are two parts. The first part is slow and cumbersome, quite and dull. It reminded me of the opening 40 minutes of “The Exorcist”, and just as in William Friedkin’s classic, the calm slow pace sets you up for the truly shocking scenes later.

The plot is about a couple who’s toddler dies tragically, and how they try to deal with the loss. Charlotte Gainsborough feels a deep-rooted guilt to

wards the loss of her son, whereas psychologist and lover Willem Defoe, an actor who really does run hot and cold with me, uses all the tricks in the book to bring her out of it. They decide to stay in their log cabin out in the wood in an effort to face her fears.

This lays out one of the many symbolic themes of the film. Both actors are playing unnamed characters, she and he. They go to the woods to a place they call Eden. We discover that she had come here with their son before. She had been researching Gynocide, or the murder of women and came to the conclusion that all women are inherently evil. This is likely to be a connection with the tree of knowledge.

As he begins to discover the true madness she has hidden for so long, he realises how out of depth his simple methods are, but it is the defining moment half an hour before the end when a fox he encounters tells him “Chaos Reigns”, that the whole film descends into hell.

This is a perfect turning point in the movie, as significant as everyone in the bar turning into vampires in From Dusk Til Dawn. From that point we move into surrealism with hands coming out of the trees as they make love, and hundreds of blurred faced spirits closing in on him as he tries to leave. It is also the point where people either love it or hate it.

This is not a movie for the feint-hearted, and even the most die-hard horror fans will wince once or twice, but it is also not for the high-octane teenage market. This is a serious plunge into insanity with more symbology than you can shake a proverbial silver ankh at. Take the weather for example. Willem Defoe is continuously concerned for the weather, but is always under cover and safe. He is wary of the weather in these unfamiliar grounds, just as he is wary of her state of mind. This connects to her research on witches where it is shows connections between witches and hailstorms. After the fox, however, for the first time we see him getting soaked outside the cabin. This shows that the madness has finally breached his defenses and he no longer has protection.

Sex too is used symbolically, showing us the nature of the relationship. He begins the film as a partner, taking a full roll, but as the film progresses, she finds herself becoming more empowered and demanding. In truth there is guilt behind her clear need for sex, and anger when he begins to refuse her increasingly masochistic demands.

Even the term Antichrist doesn’t relate to the new testament idea of the son of the devil, but of the old testament belief that we all are the son of god, that christ lives within us, and the anti-christ is our obsession with this material world. She says at one point “Nature is the Satan’s Church” presenting a stark contrast of Eden, inside the home, and hell outside.  This is strengthened by the ticks he finds on his hand that had been draped out the window over night, her claims of burning feet she walks through the woods and the crumbling trees and uncontrolled growth outside.

I am not going to tell you about the conclusions of this film in the hope that you are encouraged to find out for yourself. To be honest, just as in Audition I am not sure I have the strength to recall it, but if you are a fan of mature horror, then this film, with its imagery, subtlety and patience has punches at the end are of a kind that hollywood could never produce.

Even the first 10 minutes of this film are worth the admission price alone. Beautifully shot, truly engrossing and frighteningly real, this opening scene will stay with you for a very long time.

This is not everyone’s cup of tea, and I have much sympathy with those who hate this movie. I would like to say that the defining fox scene could have been cut, but then, it just wouldn’t be a Lars Von Trier film. This is a ground-breaking Danish director that is changing the way movies are envisaged.

For an alternative view, try http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/292997/antichrist_review.html

Antichrist is a classic, owing lots to Donnie Darko and Audition. It is thoughtful and disturbing, but it is not a film for the “Saw” generation. It is far from perfect, but it has many moments of brilliance, and is a film that will not be forgotten easily.

~ by eggplantinspace on May 25, 2010.

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