on 1 November 2013
This isn't so much as a review but how it made me feel. It was like car crash tv for me, it repulsed me but It also fascinated me to the point I had to watch it. I could tell it was beautifully shot and the brooding darkness only added to the atmosphere. I have always thought Willem Defoe has the most amazing facial expressions in any film he makes and what a fabulous actress too. Almost having the total opposite of Defoe's facial manipulation she made it all that more chilling. As a woman I believe i am totally broadminded but I was quite shocked as to how graphic the sex scenes were but I thought it was necessary to add to the sombreness of the film. If a film plays on my mind afterwards then I consider it to have been worth the watch. I really don't know what anyone would get out of this film as a night in and a DVD for entertainment but if you like diverse films that make you think about it's topic then I would recommend that you watch this.
on 11 March 2010
If it hadn't been for the vociferous praise from a friend, wild horses couldn't have dragged me to watch Lars Von Trier's latest controversy. Not only did it seem to be thoroughly unpleasant but having recently been joined by our second son the timing couldn't have been any worse for a film which follows the tortured path of a couple grieving after the death of their toddler. It doesn't matter who you are though, or what your familial setup might be, Antichrist is always going to be an uncomfortable and uncompromising watch. Deeply troubling, controversial in the truest sense of the word and as admirable as it is repulsive, I'm still not entirely sure how I feel but after a week or two I am at least ready to get something out there.
It is an uncompromising start, Von Trier seems keen to set out his stall early. The first few minutes of the film, shot in beautiful slow motion black-and-white, show Willem Defoe as 'He' and Charlotte Gainsbourg as 'She' making love, including a close-up shot of a thrusting, erect penis so that you can accuse him of pornography and the simultaneous, slow, almost balletic sequence events that leads to the couple's son falling from their apartment window onto the snowy street below. We are then into Grief, the name of this first section, which has hospitalised and medicated her and left him, who is a therapist, with the cold detachment of a professional, searching for the best way to help her through her grief. At first we feel huge sympathy for Gainsbourg, crippled by her grief, lashing out for some kind of purchase on her emotions, whilst at the same time being repelled by Defoe's clinical and arrogant treatment of his partner. You sense that there can only be danger once the barrier between lover and therapist has been broken down and this feeling only intensifies when the couple leave the oppression of their apartment for the rural retreat they call Eden.
After Grief come sections entitled Pain (Chaos Reigns) and Despair (Gynocide) where rural retreat becomes a place of frightening isolation, Eden becomes Hell, and the couple embark on a course of tortured treatment, recrimination and confrontation. Von Trier's landscape is dark hued and frightening, populated by totemic animals like a doe with a stillborn fawn hanging behind it, and a rank fox which even speaks to Him ("Chaos reigns!") a horrible visual representation of Her assertion that Nature is Satan's Church. The increasingly nightmarish feel to the film continues as the violence escalates and all is enhanced by Anthony Dod Mantle's amazing cinematography; Eden is fecund and rotting, a harsh light cuts through the night and the black and white sections are deep and textured.
The torturous violence meted out wouldn't look out of place in the rash of horror flicks from the Saw stable but it isn't that or the explicit sex that worry me. It is of course the sexual politics and the inevitable accusations of misogyny. I've already mentioned our differing sympathies for He and She and these shift through the film with Von Trier providing revelations that alter our perception particularly of her. She had been working on a thesis of historical violence against women (Gynocide) but her endeavour stalled in the face of her unacceptable conclusion. Human nature is evil and therefore women are evil, a conclusion dangerously close to 'she asked for it' and one rejected emphatically by He. But those revelations about her would seem to support her thesis and the last of these is such a paradigm shift that it risks alienating part of the audience entirely. This is what I'm still struggling with. Von Trier can't really be suggesting that women are evil, their sexual desires perverse and murderous, and their relationship to their offspring ambivalently abusive; so what is he trying to say exactly? The final scene in which a crowd of faceless women surge over the hill on which He now stands alone, baffled, is perhaps an indicator of Von Trier's own bafflement and certainly a neat symbol of mine. What I can say for sure is that the film is a work of art rather than pornography of sex or violence. It is uncomfortable and difficult, challenging and unique. There is no right time to watch it but it would be a mistake to dismiss it out of hand.
The film does somehow transmit long periods of tention without really going anywhere.
After the tragic loss of their young son, the couples marriage is at breaking point, they decide to try and mend their marriage and come to terms with the loss of their young son by travelling to their cabin which is situated in the middle of a forest and is remote as it gets.
'William Defoe' try's to help his partner (Charlotte Gainsboroug) through her grief, but tention mounts, the getaway begins to turn into a nightmare.
With some pretty graphic violence along with explicit sex- scenes the film does hold your attention.
worth watching if but ----once.
Review of the Blu-ray version
There's little doubt that this film has divided the opinions of one and all. Some expect horror - well, it's not. Some may be curious as to its alleged 'porn' status, when it has none at all. Yet others pan it as art, albeit obsure and psychotic, for art's sake. It's not. At its heart lie the agonies of its creator in real life, past if not present, for above all this is an intimate analysis of one couple's descent into psychological breakdown, caused by the tragic death of their son.
In this film, it is the mother of the child who takes it upon herself to assume most of the guilt, and her partner - a therapist by profession anyway - gives her therapeutic support and guidance. (The director has been accused of touching upon misogynistic taboos in this regard, with his suggestion that women are evil and men are not) But her breakdown deepens and becomes physically as well as mentally destructive, and the portrayal of this is one of the film's strengths. That it should descend into such horrific images of agonising pain and mutilation is the debatable point - personally I think more could have been left to the viewer's imagination, and there should have been less in the way of sickeningly horrible (as opposed to horrific) imagery. This was the one disappointing element for me, and although I don't doubt that such acts of violence are authentic and possibly based on real events, there was no need to make those images quite so brutally in-your-face in impact; a little subtlety would have been my preference. That's because to an extent it will be these images that people will remember the film for, and some of the very intelligent examinations of depression, panic attacks and nervous breakdowns are almost glossed over as a result. For me, it's the script that works best, its worth paying careful attention to, and while its entertainment fare must admittedly be called into question, it is nevertheless poignant, moving and convincing.
This is not a horror film. I suppose it's a psychological drama but with some shocks for shock's sake, rather than art for art's sake. I'm guessing that this was something of a personal mission for the director, who if he had stayed truer to the core values would have lost a lot of money for its producers; as a result it has been 'shocked up' and given a snazzy but meaningless title so as to attract attention, more viewers, more money. That's understandable I admit - no-one wants to lose money making a film. For the viewer, if he/she can acknowledge that some of the visuals in this film are probably over-done so as to generate controversy, there is actually much to take from the film's more basic message of emotional breakdown. Much the same could be said of the symbolic imagery, which seemed to me to be, at times anyway, created only for artistic effect rather than add any meaningful worth to the story.
The circumstances surrounding the little boy's death are similar to a real and well-publicised incident that took place in New York in 1991, a tragedy that troubled me at the time and has saddened me ever since. For this reason I was particularly interested to see how the parents of the boy in this film came to terms with their grief, and it has to be said that the portayal is credible, disturbing and lays long in the memory.
I watched this in Blu-Ray and I would suggest that anyone with the choice makes the same as I did. In particular the opening scene, or prologue, which is shot in black and white, is superb from a technical perspective. The sound quality throughout is particularly impressive too, with countless sounds of the forest and the outside world coming over in detail and with a great sense of three-dimensional depth of field. What did disappoint me however was the absence of any sub-titles in English (only Danish and Italian), because although I am not hearing-impaired I often use subtitles to make sure I get every word. Set-up options are limited, with only an English audio soundtrack together with a rerun of the film with commentary by the director. On the 'Bonus' menu there are various explanations as to how the film was made, ironically some of which are in Danish with English subtitles!
A good film, then, for those with the capacity, objectivity and perhaps patience to appreciate it - but I accept that this will include far from everybody.
on 6 April 2012
I guess this product doesn't really need another Review - there are plenty here already - but I "loved" this film so much I just had to say what I feel and think about it.
It should disturb people - I presume it is meant to. But only in the sense that it is crying out to people's denial of our terrible human condition here; the Evilness of planet earth. So much that is generally hidden or denied or labelled pathological, but which is actually normal. And of course to say such things is to immediately invite people's wrath, even if it is the Truth.
For me there is only one error in the movie - and that is the equation of nature with women only; and somehow men representing the mind/intellect/rationality. Because, in Truth, of course, man and the mind are as much a product of nature as everything else on the planet. There is the battle to try and rationalise an emotional event - and the portrayal of the fact that that is just not possible. Nor can it be. And ultimately the body and emotions win, as Dafoe himself finds out.
There is nothing shocking about any of the sexual scenes; nor has it got anything to do with mental illness. Nor is it a horror movie, though it is of course horrific in certain scenes. People who want to take those lines are, again, missing the more distressing point that pain, grief, sorrow, anger and "madness" are major parts of our life as humans on this planet.
The primal scream is actually shown visually, as is the cruelty of nature. The images of the half-born, dead baby deer still trapped in its mother's body for example; the almost-dead bird eaten up by other creatures and so on. This is an exploration of von Trier's idea that "nature is satan's church". And although I wouldn't use the word "satan", I can see what he is driving at and wholly agree.
At least he has dared to look at many issues and aspects of our lives straight in the eye - in a world which prefers to pretend they don't exist.
I totally recommend.
...you might just find this rather unconvincing, hyperbolic, mystical take on (predominantly) female grief and guilt directed by 'enfant terrible', Dane Lars von Trier in 2009. Now, don't get me wrong, von Trier is, for me, one of the most innovative (and often brilliant) film-makers at work currently, and has repeatedly 'gone where other artists fear to tread' (subject-wise). Even with Antichrist, there are the seeds of a disturbing, and potentially powerful, film - two parents grieving the loss of a child via an 'accident', growing increasingly distant, and with the mother becoming increasingly disturbed and obsessed with the notion that she may have somehow contributed to their predicament. However, to then layer on top (for me, what is) some mumbo-jumbo around (OK, factual) female persecution (Gynocide) over the centuries and then to conjure up talking foxes and a final 30 minutes that should not be watched whilst eating your dinner (really Lars!) - sadly, I'm left with the impression of 'shock for shock's sake', rather than something a little more subtle, with the film's (potentially) important message thereby falling through the cracks.
That is not to say that there aren't moments of power (and, indeed, beauty) in Antichrist. In fact, the film's Prologue is stunning - shot (by Anthony Dod Mantle) in slo-mo black-and-white as Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg's (anonymous) couple, with the exquisite sound of Handel's music floating in the background, make love as (unbeknownst to them) their infant son wanders towards an open window. This opening sequence (with its, probably unnecessary, explicit sexual content) actually calls to mind two Nic Roeg films - Don't Look Now and Bad Timing - (for the former) controversial sex scene and loss of child, and (for the latter) obsessive, self-destructive relationship (for me, however that's where the similarities end, von Trier's film being inferior to both).
Thereafter, as the couple 'retire' to their 'forest retreat' (Eden, geddit?) for a spot of 'self-reflection' (as it were), we move into (frankly) the contrived arena of Blair Witch Project-type horror (with one or two Lynchian 'close-up on feet treading through grass' moments). To be honest, I was most impressed by von Trier's dream sequences here - however, these do tend to have a rather superficial effect if, as viewer, you've not bought into the film's main premise - unlike in, say, Melancholia, where we can all identify with its idea of 'the apocalypse'. Thereafter, the graphic self-mutilation and 'animal bashing' (tough little blighters, those crows) becomes, quite frankly, a little tiresome.
For me, Antichrist was something of a misjudgement for von Trier (although I would agree with his contention that the film is not misogynist), and has nothing of the power (or significance) of, say, Breaking The Waves, Dancer In The Dark, Dogville or (even) Melancholia. Still, at least it looks as though he is going to be shunning controversy with his new film, Nymphomaniac.
on 26 April 2016
This is the first Lars Von Trier film I have watched. It is really rather disturbing and apart from some shots which are quite beautiful it is a very difficult film to watch. The message of the film and the themes explored in it, I think could have been better explained. The main problem with the film is that in trying to explain to us the message of the the film and expand it, Von Trier shows us some extremely unsettling and grotesque images which I guess are suppose to tie up the meaning of the film but, unfortunately in it's extreme content ultimately blurs and kills any sort of meaning one could get from the film. What could have been rather a good film ends up losing itself in its shocking images and you don't end up leaving the film thinking about the characters, how much grief 'she' is truly experiencing and what drove her to do the things she did etc. etc. You just think, what those scissors went through is quite an ordeal. The performances were very good, the acting wasn't a fault. Is this film a good film? It's not a bad film. Would I watch it again? Only if I was with some mates who wanted to watch something a bit more extreme. Did you enjoy it? I'm not sure this is a film which anyone can really enjoy, maybe if you use the term extremely lightly then some people may say yes. Do I recommend it? If you like a film which opens with a slo-mo rather graphic sex scene which lasts for about 10 minutes, enjoy watching talking foxes and also enjoy watching Charlotte Gainsbourg graphically torture Willem Dafoe before mutilating herself then yes this is the film for you. If you like shock factor then yes, you probably won't find another film like this and you should watch it. I guess I'm one of those film watchers who finds it difficult to see past extreme content and find meaning in them. If you are also like this then you won't like this film. Will I watch another Von Trier? I have bought Melancholia, I hear it's rather passive compared to his other films (i could be horrifically wrong), so I'm going to give that a go, then maybe I'll explore some of his other films as well. (Just highlighted this review on my tablet by accident and there is an icon which says 'cut' next to the 'copy' button and there is a small picture of some scissors next to it. After this film I will never see this icon in the same way again).
on 29 November 2014
A haunting and powerful horror film from Danish master, Lars Von Trier. Lovers of Lars will no doubt find a lot to like in this brooding drama which features some gorgeous imagery and extraordinary performances from Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Some may find it boring, but I found it interesting and often profound. The violence is shocking and perhaps a little gratuitous, but it all serves a purpose to the film. Whatever your opinions are of Antichrist, you'll never forget it.
With a big nod to "Don't Look Now" and "The Shining" Triers does horror. The main protagonist is a CBT rationalist who believes his wife grief can be overcome by reliving the trauma. So we have a battle between psychiatry and psychology at the beginning of the film - although the rote nature of CBT and its mechanical view of the human is put to the test. So "Evil Dead" is resurrected as nature takes the central role in the reliving of the trauma. But the film shows that CBT and rationalism is bankrupt when it comes to dealing with extreme emotions.
Oblivious to his wife's increasing fragmentation - there is a hint of misogyny seeping through Trier's perspective - she descends whilst he wants to impose his reality that everything can be resolved upon her. As a result they pass each other on the stairs of life, whilst he fails to view the reality they exist within.
The film deals with themes and levels - as does his other output. This is filled with beautiful disturbing images, rampant sex undertaken to ensure the world is held at bay and various inflicted cuts that will make the viewer squeak - but think of it as philosophy rather than entertainment and perhaps the rewards may be greater.
on 16 March 2015
A film almost impossible to review, as simply trying to understand the disheartening plot alongside the dark paganism/witchcraft visual imagery of the wood is a melon twister. Now throw in the occasional graphic sexual violence, uncomfortable scenes with disturbed animals, and break down of each of the individuals' characters mental state due to self obsession and inward priorities even in the aftermath of such a tragedy, and your left jaw open watching each scene intensely trying to comprehend what's playing out in front of you.
A superb film that sadly only a small percentage of people will enjoy simply because it takes a strong will to look past what can at times be really uncomfortable viewing right from the start.
The title of the film is almost misleading, as it couldn't be more different to the Hollywood/Christian traditional ideals of a film based around the concept of "an Anti Christ". Buy for a truly unique film experience.