Loudly booed at Cannes and bound to divide audiences and critics alike, Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist is a sadomasochistic trip to hell, both literally and metaphysically.
Von Trier, the self proclaimed bad boy of cinema, is known for writing gruesome and highly torturous roles for his female leads, such as his 2004 film Dogville, where Nicole Kidman’s character is raped throughout the entire film.
Antichrist is no exception, as actress Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character experiences genital mutilation, self-destruction, and violent tendencies. The director was going through severe depression while making the film and said it was just an exercise, a form of self-therapy. “Scenes were added for no apparent reason,” the director said in a press release for the film, and it certainly shows.
The story is simple but not simply told. A married couple, aptly called He and She, lose their child in a tragic accident that opens the film. She is completely destructive and has no limits to her wounds, bursting into tears at any apparent moment and turning violent at any given time. He (Willem Dafoe) is a therapist that decides to get rid of her pills to let her heal in a more natural way. They retreat to Eden, a cabin house in the woods, as a form of self-therapy and end up having a duel with Satan.
The movie’s last half hour breaks boundaries and tries to shock its audience as gruesomely as possible. Be warned; it is not for the squeamish and contains sick, abnormal behaviour from its two leads.
Is Antichrist another Von Trier classic? Not even close.
It is too confused with itself and too disturbingly violent to be considered great, let alone good. The performance by Gainsbourg is raw and unlike any female performance this year. Her performance is, however, too risquÃ© to be considered for an Oscar. Dafoe also mesmerizes as a man that is clearly flawed and arrogant. Still, the screenplay is preposterous with its metaphorical comparisons of nature and Satan. Von Trier, who wrote and directed the film, was clearly disturbed by something in his life, but his raw emotions did not translate well onto the screen. In fact, watching this movie might give its audience depression.