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Directed by Lars von Trier
Produced in 2009
Main Language - English
von Trier's provocative study of depression, guilt and sexuality arrives uncut. Milo Wakelin sees it as a faithful but subversive addition to the horror genre.
After its debut at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, Lars Von Trier's Antichrist left traumatised critics unsure as to whether they had just witnessed profundity or farce. The answer, of course, was both, but despite the film's harrowing emotional range and von Trier's dazzling technique, Antichrist is best enjoyed as a subversive yet faithful addition to the horror genre which evokes mainstays such as Don't Look Now (1973), The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976) and even The Blair Witch Project (1999) - all with a nod to the style and sadism of Dario Argento.
This superbly-acted two hander stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a grieving couple recovering from the death of their infant son. The husband (known only as "He"), an earnest yet oblivious therapist, is determined to help his wife ("She") confront her grief by taking her to the place she fears most: Eden, the remote forest cabin in which she spent the previous summer researching her dissertation, alone with their child. As nature closes in, the struggle between reason and fear turns into a savage battle of the sexes.
Gainsbourg's performance - for which she won Best Actress at Cannes - is an outstanding study of all-encompassing grief, her face locked in a mask of hopeless loss. As the voice of well-intentioned reason, Dafoe's character remains almost infuriatingly calm, ignoring his wife's warnings and dismissing her fears: "Nature is Satan's church", she insists, as her husband devises exercises that leave her ever more exposed.
With the exception of the couple and their son, all human characters have their faces digitally blurred, an effect which reinforces the film's sense of isolation and looming terror. And with excruciatingly detailed full frontal nudity, closeups of slow-motion penetration, talking wildlife, and a visually breathtaking sequence in which the deep forest dissolves into a tableaux worthy of Hieronymus Bosch, Antichrist celebrates von Trier's return from the asceticism of Dogme as well as his ongoing willingness to provoke.
The film is divided into chapters entitled "Pain," "Grief" and "Despair", complete with title cards. Early scenes are slow, intimate and emotional; later sequences reportedly had Cannes audiences fainting in their seats (Antichrist's UK release is conspicuously uncut). This combination of arthouse intensity with Grand Guignol bloodletting may seem incongruous, but just as Andrei Tarkovsky - to whom the film is dedicated - elevated sci-fi into the arthouse realm with Solaris (1972), and Stanley Kubrick turned Steven King's The Shining on its head by downplaying the supernatural element, so von Trier's foray into the horror genre plays with its conventions and tests its boundaries.
Milo Wakelin on 21st December 2009
Author of 103 reviews
Lars von Trier's controversial exploration of depression, guilt and sexuality stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a couple grieving for their dead son. The mother is initially admitted to hospital following the incident, but her therapist husband insists on taking her to their remote forest cabin, 'Eden', and looking after her himself. Presented in four chapters with a prologue and epilogue, the film charts the often violent and disturbing course of the couple's anguish as they immerse themselves in nature and act out their deep suffering in a sequence of increasingly bizarre and brutal rituals.
Publisher: Artificial Eye
Length: 104 mins
Cat No: ART666DVD
Format: DVD Colour
- Feature Commentary with Director Lars von Trier and Professor Murray Smith
- Interviews with Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe
- Featurettes: The Evil of Woman, The Visual Style of Antichrist, The Make-Up Effects and Props of Antichrist
- The Three Beggars
- Confessions about Anxiety
- The Sound and Music of Antichrist
- The Antichrist Test
- Antichrist – Chaos Reigns at the Cannes Film Festival.
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