Drama / Horror


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1hr 48 min
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1.60 GB
Not Rated
23.976 fps
1hr 48 min
P/S 10 / 49

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Chris_Docker 8 / 10

Embedded horror

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.

Reviewed by Claus Reinhold 9 / 10

Von Trier Masterclass

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 film also...

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.

Reviewed by arturo-45 10 / 10

When movies become art

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.

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