Sunday, 26 October 2014

Antichrist (2009) review

This is a hard film to talk about. While watching this, there was times when I felt extremely uncomfortable. The nameless female lead, played by Charlottle Gainsbourg, suffers badly after her also nameless husband (played by Willem Dafoe) and Hers son dies after falling out of a window. Her husband, a psychologist, decides to try and help her with exposure therapy, after learning that she fears the wooded area around a cabin called Eden, where she spent time with their son and wrote her thesis on gynocide (the killing of women because they are women). The film is heavily symbolic, relying on religious imagery throughout, and this religious symbolism only goes to highlight the witchcraft that She has studied as being evil. When She goes on to state that the bad things that happen to women is evidence of their inherent evil, I can only gulp and hope the director is joking.

I like Lars von Trier films, and watch them with the full knowledge that he does not take his own rules seriously, sets out to shock for the sake of it, and doesn't owe me anything. He is a superb director, but when he suggests (in the DVD extras of this film) that women are more scared of their sexuality than men, and that women's bodies are uncontrollable, therefore women are uncontrollable, I wonder if he has any comprehension over what he is making. Antichrist is almost like a greatest hits of horror films; the fog, the cabin in the woods, the mad woman, the gore, even an Evil Dead-esque tree that comes alive. Von Trier stated that he just wanted to make a horror film, and he well and truly has ransacked all the scary movie tropes for this, and mashed them through his "art film" lens.

There is plenty to think of in this film, as this is much more of the psychic violations type of horror than the shock or blood-lust movies that you get. I did linger on it a while. The image of her abusing her husband and her own self-mutilation are right up there with some of the most horrendous images you'll see at the cinema. I suppose the most shocking thing for me was how quickly She went from grieving mother to psycho. It is quite heavily suggested towards the end of the film that somehow she repressed this side of herself, that she is evil and needs to be let back into nature. I found the husband equally disturbing though; he strikes me as indifferent to his son's death, and seems to be channelling any grief he may be suffering into his wife, manipulating her into situations she doesn't want to go to, if only to prove that he is a better psychotherapist.

The best way to see this film is as a series of beautiful shots on the screen. Do not look too deeply into this film, as I doubt von Trier did. I resent the misogyny in this movie, even though it attempts to criticise the idea when He states on Her gynocide thesis that "nobody believes this anymore", an incredibly insensitive statement, considering she is deep into the idea.

This film was called to be banned by the "broad minded" people of The Daily Mail. This is the kind of reaction that von Trier wanted. It's the ultimate horror gimmick. Five years later, it holds up as an attractively shot film, full of images that will haunt your mind, but a typical horror film it is.



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