by on Nov.05, 2009, under Daily Review

Where to begin with this one? It’s harsh. Real harsh, but not to say unwatchable, in fact somewhat the opposite. It’s harsh as it needs to be to antichrist03express the full emotion of the characters who are troubled with grief, pain and despair. The film centres around the loss of a toddler and the emotions dealt with by his parents who spend the rest of the film in a cabin in the woods for therapeutic reasons. He (Willem Dafoe) is a psychiatrist who controls his grief with rationale and intellect. His wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is chosen as his project, to fix and mend through this traumatic time. The two characters become symbols of extreme emotion. Her’s emphasising all things natural, earth like, dangerous and un-expecting, with her own grief central. Dafoe’s character detached from the actual loss of a son, focusing on the pain which his wife is feeling, soaking up anguish without expressing any kind of grief. This leads to violent random attacks from Gainsbourg which are vicious, sexual and extremely disturbing in places, as we find that her character is not  a victim of circumstance and in fact has been a bit crazy all along. At one point, early on, she draws blood from Dafoe’s chest, who reacts calmly and expectantly.

But what makes this film stand out from the rest is Von Trier’s dedication of taking a situation and placing it in a realm very few would dare to go. Generating and capturing raw energy from two fine actors, each highly encased in their own focused emotional trait. On top of this is the cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle whose work is breathtaking and beautiful.

Throughout the film we are offered subtle symbols which help carry the piece through visuals and connotations. The Three beggars in the form of a fox, deer and bird are embodiments of Grief, Pain, and Despair, also antichrist02represented earlier as three toy soldiers and also as the mother, father and child. The fox at one point, appears to be dead and rotting, turns to Defoe and speaks, ‘Chaos Reigns!’ It’s also interesting that all three beggars are struggling in a state of death or dieing yet after the climax of the film, they are seen as living and well, maybe a symbol of Dafoe over coming evil and resisting further temptation with a field of faceless women forming nature, or are they complete after taking their 3rd victim. Gainsbourg mentions the three beggars ‘when the three beggars arrive someone must die’. On three occasions throughout the film, we find the arrival of the beggars and the departure of a character.

It’s all good stuff and the meanings and connotations can be looked at from various angles and offer many hours of good debate over a few drinks. Very Lynchian, Cronenberg and even touches of Kubrick (Hints from the Shining), but no-one else makes films like Lars Von Trier.


2 Comments for this entry

  • WiteWulf

    Wot Geoff said, harsh but (almost) all relevant and necessary. It’s one of Von Trier easiest to ‘read’ movies but at the same time has all sorts of hidden secrets that you can attempt to decipher or simply ignore and take the movie at face value.

    I’ve got a theory, and I’m going to share it with you – if you haven’t already seen the movie don’t read any further as it could spoil things for your first viewing.

    Still with me?

    Okay, it’s like this: in the first act there’s a lot of interplay between the husband and wide in their flat, after the boy’s funeral. Von Trier deliberately creates a very claustrophobic atmosphere by vignetting the shots, creating lots of shadows in the flat and, most notably, putting a very subtle muted-reverb on the dialogue track. Now, when the action moves out of the flat, into the train and eventually into the woods and Eden itself Von Trier continues to use exactly the same processing on the dialogue between the two, recalling the setting of the flat, while keeping a more natural echo for the environmental effects of the wind and animal noises. I reckon this is a really subtle way of saying that the whole part of the story that, visually at least, takes place outside of the flat is in actual fact a thought experiment, or even a hallucination, undertaken by the two as part of the husband’s well-intentioned-but-ultimately-disastrous therapy of his wife. What this means for the final scene with the faceless women is even more open to interpretation now.

    So there ya go, stick that in yer pipe and smoke it!

  • lucas1138

    Nice. That’s quite interesting and quite possible too. I might need to watch this for a 3rd time now:)

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