Cult Classics: Antichrist (2009)
By Jordan Smith.
Warning: this film is mental and you shouldn’t view it if you’re under 18 years of age. Seriously – it’s messed up. In preparation for my viewing of “art house cinema legend” Lars Von Trier’s latest film Nymphomaniac (available to watch online now), I’ll be taking a look back at his first two films in his “Depression Trilogy”. First up on the list – Antichrist.
Lars Von Trier is a film maker I’ve only recently been introduced to in the last six months or so. I’d watched Melancholia about a year ago and it was quite unlike any other film I’d seen before. His films are made for a very niche audience as they are far more artistic than mainstream films, that are made for a mass audience. Lars Von Trier is also notorious for being “controversial”, shall we say, with what he says in press conferences and such. But we’ll leave that there and simply analyse his films.
Antichrist is a 2009 film written and directed by Trier and intended to be the first part in his trilogy that deals with depression in its various forms. The film tells the story of a couple who, after the death of their child, retreat to a cabin in the woods where the man experiences strange visions and the woman manifests increasingly violent sexual behaviour and sadism.
If you’re the kind of person that finds most of the bile thrown out by the horror film genre these days to be both dull and insulting to your intelligence, then maybe this could be the horror film you’re looking for. The premise is quite typical; the film, however, is anything but. Its narrative is structured into six parts; a prologue, four chapters and an epilogue. The prologue and epilogue are both fairly short scenes and the chapters make up the bulk of the narrative.
The two characters in this film are unnamed and are portrayed by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. They are simply known as He and She in the credits; there is a third character in the film who only appears briefly in the beginning. This is their son Nick. The man is a psychiatrist who takes it upon himself to help his wife through her grief after the death of their son. The woman gradually becomes incredibly violent and sexual. Dafoe and Gainsbourg are both incredible in their roles. The characters are both so interesting that you’re hanging on their every word about depression and how it effects “she”, as well as all the ideas for therapy that “He” comes up with. Then later in the film, when things get extremely uncomfortable, Gainsbourg’s shows you what real crazy looks like. You thought the Joker was crazy? Check this character out.
The film received as much hate as it did love due to the explicit sexual sequences depicted in the film. Just recently in a lecture, we were discussing “where is the line when something crosses from being art into being something else?” We were talking about The Wolf of Wall Street and the sexism within it and also when animal cruelty is depicted on film. The answer that most of us agreed on was that, if nothing illegal is being done during the actual production of the film then the artist is within their rights to do whatever they want. It’s art. Animal cruelty can be shown with CGI models or puppets or something, if there’s some point to having that in your film. In Antichrist, the sexual scenes in which mutilation occurs, blatantly wasn’t real. Therefore – cry me a river, critics. It’s art. You may not like it; but it is acceptable. I thought the screenplay for this film was fantastic, and extremely creepy. Not conventional, boring as hell, jump scares horror. This had disturbing imagery doing all the work. There was only one jump scare in the whole film and I still left feeling disturbed, not scared though. I’m not nearly intelligent enough to try and think about the metaphors of the film and try and form a cohesive sentence explaining it, but it had something to do with women. Cue people groaning at me for not having the brain power to explain this one.
The cinematography in this film has now taken the top spot for my all time favourite style of cinematography; slow motion shots with lots and lots of beautiful or bleak imagery. This film looks incredible. You need to see it to see what I mean, I can’t explain how fantastically shot this film is; you have to see it. I can’t decide what my favourite shot or sequence in this film is. It’s between “the fox” sequence and the ending sequence I think. You’ll see what I mean. Go and watch this film.
I can’t recommend this film highly enough. One of the most best examples of film as an art form. If you want a horror film that’s different than the usual sludge that’s thrown at us, give this one a try. But, you know; be warned, it’s got some very disturbing sequences in it that’ll just freak you out like nothing else.