Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist is a carefully constructed, well-acted, beautifully realized work of art and passion… that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the craftsmanship (because I do), but I just can’t seem to fathom a scenario where I’d say, “Well, if you like genital mutilation, you’re going to love this film.”
It opens on a black and white, slow motion shot of the film’s only two players, Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, having intense, graphic sex. The characters, never referred to by name but credited as He and She, are engaging in the session while the accidental death of their only child occurs.
Overcome by crippling grief, She retreats to an almost catatonic state, blaming herself for the tragedy. Trier never refutes this. After her condition worsens, He insists on providing his own brand of psychotherapy. Together they travel to their secluded cabin in the woods where they can focus explicitly on her healing process.
Told in chapters and segmenting the stages of mourning, the story drives to the roots of deep depression. She grapples with agonizing grief, pain, and despair, often acting erratically and violently while He responds with more fundamental exercises and condescending analysis.
The foundation of the film is a deep-seeded hatred towards women, a misogynistic retelling of Adam and Eve. Trier, through Dafoe, refers to nature as “Satan’s church” and She is the depraved product of this evil. Her corruption harmed their innocent, angelic son and her feminine aggression boils over until, as a disemboweled fox says, “chaos reigns.”
Trier’s psychological horror is deliberately provocative, unquestionably horrific, and unnecessarily violent, a personal project meant to affect. It’s also unforgettable, and sometimes frustratingly so. The gruesome imagery sticks like a thorn in your mind, inducing an unrelenting visceral reaction well after it’s over.
Perhaps you can stomach a single viewing, or the shock and controversy only fuels your interest. It’s, at the very least, a one of a kind piece. In all his pretentiousness, Trier is capable of claiming a truly original horror film that stands alone in an otherwise stagnant and incestuous genre. However, he shouldn’t be applauded for such a boundary busting concept, because it will only serve his purpose of wanting to be noticed, maybe even admired. After sitting through this mean-spirited gore, I don’t believe he deserves the attention.