Director: Lars Von Trier
The only thing that could’ve prepared me for the utter monstrosity that was ‘Antichrist’ would be if Jim Henson teamed up with Pamela Anderson to create a low budget porno entitled ‘When the Muppets met Pam – adventures in the wild.’ Though to be frank even that’d be easier to swallow; I’d rather be face to face with Pam’s love pillows and Kermit the frog for two hours than have to suffer another disgusting image of Willem Defoe in yet another excessively explicit sex scene with his trout-faced partner and their animatronic fox any day of the week.
The minute I heard the name ‘Willem Defoe’ I immediately thought of these two words: ‘Artsy Bull****’ – call it a premonition, but low and behold, I was right – and it took me a grand total of ten seconds at the most for me to realise that either I’m a precognitive psychic genius or that most films beginning with ‘Prologue’ written on a chalkboard generally do turn out to be utter ****e.
Another slow-motion shot of Willem Defoe’s ever-so-neutral crease-ridden mug under showering water confirmed this (How artistic!), but it wasn’t until I saw the following scenes of their toddler falling to his death whilst they thrashed about in the bathroom to sombre music that I realised exactly what I was in for.
Yet another film festival throw-out, splurged from some sex obsessed ‘artist’ with a vision of raw-reality and lots of experimental camera angles to make up for the lack of funds followed. Let’s begin with my immediate thoughts – Sex will undoubtedly be their ‘coping method’ when grieving for their son; the intertwining scenes of sex and their child’s journey towards the window (and his proceeding death) were predictable enough, as was the scene consisting of the pair knocking the child toys off of the counter to create space for themselves, which was less of a symbolic foreshadowing, but more of an artsy slap in the face with a wet fish.
This to me was a prime example of regurgitated abstract symbolism; anybody who’s watched channel 5 soft-core porn at three in the morning (or channel four in the 80’s) will have seen it all before; there’s nothing contemporary or meaningful about that. The child’s teddy bear impacting the ground seconds after the boy did might’ve acted as some sort of symbolism for the death of either innocence or attachment, but whether that was the director’s intention or not is neither here nor there – the raw symbolism, for me, was not only a poor choice but predictable to the point of nausea, given that just about every child death scene in just about any film will feature a similar technique to this. It seems that the director has tried desperately hard to be original in just the opening scene (or ‘chapter’ as the chalkboard stated) but failed, and instead regurgitated old methods and created a sloppily contrasted sequence that pretty much spoke for the entire film.
The text featured just two main characters, played by Willem Defoe as ‘He’ (Oh well done Lars, keeping them nameless to create empty-shell characters for the audience to pour themselves into. If the film wasn’t so tacky that might’ve been interesting.) and Charlotte Gainsbourg as ‘she’. Now don’t get me wrong, It’s not that I don’t appreciate good acting – I know it when I see it, and given the circumstances, the pair did pretty good – not fantastic – but good.
The dialogue, however, was terrible – wooden, monotonous, unrealistic and (you won’t be surprised to hear this) sickeningly profound. Neither character seemed to give a rat’s arse that their child has lost his life, but cared more about spitting out therapist Jargon for the benefit of the apparently uncultured audience. It would seem that the entire film was made not for the sake of a good story, but to spray the audience with philosophical backsplash and force hopeless profundity down their already gagging throats.
Faults such as her fear of the outdoors (having already laid down in the grass and slept mid-trek, I might point out) acted as nothing more than a gap-filler and excuse to reinforce the psychologist’s skill and determination to help his ‘loved one’ as it were, and yet another prompt for ‘she’ to expose ‘He’ to his own arrogance and taunt him about his lack of ability to credit others in their capabilities when it comes to anything remotely intelligent. Again, it was repetitive, boring, and pointless. Parts like this left me wanting to scream ‘We get it! You’ve succeeded director! I see what you did there! Director: 1, audience: 0 – happy now?!’
The props and camera techniques were sloppily presented and tactless – the camera cut from shot to shot in quick succession making it difficult to focus, and not only that, but the proceeding shots weren’t even level with one another, making it all the more harsh on the eyes. The merging of scenes wasn’t awful, but again predictable – in one scene the camera zooms into a glass of murky plant water and out again to reveal the next scene – it’s an easy method to use when you’re penniless, but if it held no real purpose other than to cut from scene to scene then it might as well not be there at all – they could’ve at least cut to a scene of some relation to the murky plant water, for a start.
The ‘three beggars’ (A crow, a deer, and a fox) constantly presented ‘He’ with images of death, such as the crow dying and the deer running with its dead young hanging from its bottom still covered in blood and amniotic fluid, which is fine if you’re a fan of ‘Surfacing’ by Margaret Atwood (In fact, having seen the entire film, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was inspired by that very book) but I draw the line at the talking fox.
I tell you no word of a lie when I say that the entire audience burst into raucous laughter after seeing the animatronic fox turn to Willem Defoe and declare ‘Chaos Reins!’ in a very Henson-esque manner. Think ‘The dark crystal’. If there was ever a time when an already terrible film went right ahead and bit itself right in the arse then this was it – the wannabe-artistry I can comprehend, but the cheap puppetry? Come on now, Lars – you’re pushing it.
The problem that was most prominent to me was that the director clearly had no idea what he really wanted this film to be – one moment it acted as a montage of the grieving process (Thank you once again for the instalments, Mr.Chalkboard), the next it was an abstract view of sexual representation, and the next it was a woman’s quest to demonstrate philosophical and mythical knowledge to her typically sceptical therapist husband, as well as conquering her angst regarding the mistreatment of women back in god-knows-what century.
None of these concepts are a problem in particular, but it was more the way in which it was delivered. The director chose to use raw visuals (and scarcely any research) to convey ‘she’s’ psychosis, and though its harshness may not have been such a problem had it been produced more tactfully, the fact that it had absolutely no foundations supporting it (I.E a plausible story and character representation to begin with) meant that it was completely useless – raw visuals will be nothing more than raw visuals if the audience feels absolutely no attachment to them. Not only that, but the way in which the sexual representation and mistreatment of women was delivered was disgusting and hardly difficult to interpret – cutting off her own clitoris with a pair of scissors to de-sexualise herself I can understand quite easily, as could the rest of the audience – but the fact that it was filmed in such detail was not only vile but patronising.
I’m left wondering why the director felt the need to deliver it in such a way as though the audience needed a reality check. The constant dirty sex scenes and grotesque de-sexualisation (Crushed testicles and blood-spurting Penis’s, anyone?) as well as the sketchy historical references (the buried women, the faceless people ascending up the hill at the end as though ‘He’ had been awakened’) weren’t altogether unnecessary, but it was painfully obvious that they served no purpose other than to force the audience into feeling something that the director simply couldn’t achieve any other way.
Over all, the film was a complete shambles – It dressed itself up to be some symbolic, abstract, victorious breakthrough in contemporary film making ( or “the most controversial film of the year” as advertised), but in the end served as nothing more than an artsy porno with minimal back story to keep you watching. I’d recommend this film to anybody who wanted to see the biggest cinematic ****up of 2009. 0.2 out of 10 – and that’s being generous, trust me.
This review was written purely to express my opinion about the film, as well as put my writing skills to productive use.
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