Lars von Trier -- the self-proclaimed "best film director in the world" -- is one of the most controversial filmmakers working today, and with Antichrist, he has perhaps made his most controversial film to date. His exercise in arthouse horror is a beautifully shot film -- thanks to Von Trier and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle -- with striking performances from its two performers Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. For those reasons alone, let alone the deafening buzz surrounding the film, Antichrist is well worth-seeing, but the director's message is so cloudy and unclear that by the end of the film, it is tough to figure out what the director is trying to tell us with this brutal project.

The film's prologue, a gorgeous monochromatic scene set to the aria "Lascia ch'io pianga", is one of the most beautiful scenes of the year. It has interchanging shots of He (Dafoe) and She (Gainsbourg) making love in the bedroom and their son Nic awakening in the adjacent room to his untimely fall. There is no dialogue in this scene; it's just black-and-white visuals and the music, and it is stunning.




As She falls into extreme depression, He begins to question the treatment of her doctors. He doesn't think prescription meds is the way to go, but rather to feel the grief in its fullest extent and overcome it. She is unable to convince him otherwise, so she is eventually forced to give into His methods.

His main goal is to figure out his where She is in her most vulnerable and weakest state. She then reveals Her biggest fear: the woods, Eden in particular. From the moment they arrive in the woods, needless to say, chaos ensues.

The performances from Dafoe and Gainsbourg are truly remarkable. Gainsbourg, who won Best Actress at this year's Cannes Film Festival, gives one of the bravest and most shocking performances of the year. Dafoe makes a perfect contrast as the logical, if somewhat arrogant, husband. These two actors, along with Von Trier, create one of the most suspenseful third acts in recent memory with content so brutal it will make you question how far a film can go and still get released.

The thing that ultimately lets down the film is the lack of focus in the themes and the purpose. Von Trier presents so many symbolic things -- The Three Beggars, the woods called Eden, the no-named characters -- that it is nearly impossible to digest and comprehend it all. I am still questioning what Von Trier is trying to tell us with this film, and that is quite problematic. It is such a tough film to sit through that the lack of focus in the message is ultimately quite disappointing.

Maybe my criticism of his themes are moot. Perhaps Von Trier is toying with us to a limitless extent. But in the end, it doesn't really matter; the guy is such a talented filmmaker. He makes a truly captivating, atmospheric film highlighted by some truly courageous performances. While you might try to get some of the film's disturbing images out of your head as soon as possible, the pure experience of Antichrist is something that will be remembered for a long time to come.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Me and my mom were watching it and we decided to leave the theater because of Sherwin..

CS said...

While nowhere near Von Tiers best works, I hope that Charlotte Gainsbourg gets a little buzz come award season. She really gives her all in this film. It is a shame the rest of the film does live up to her performance.

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