BluRay/DVD Reviews

ANTICHRIST

By • Nov 30th, 2010 •

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The first thing we see in ANTICHRIST is the name “Lars Von Trier” in huge lettering: It doesn’t “Fade in” from black. It is literally the first frame of the film. Von Trier, along with fellow Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (THE CELEBRATION) created the avant-garde movement known as “Dogme 95” One of the rules of Dogme is to not credit the director. The opening of ANTICHRIST suggests that he is now far from that style of filmmaking, and the opening “prologue” of the film only exemplifies this theory. It is shot in extreme slow-motion (not allowed in Dogme) and black and white (also not allowed), accompanied by opera. It is a beautiful looking sequence, but also resembles a Zales diamond commercial. That is, until about ten seconds in when we see a close up of a penis penetrating a vagina.

In the prologue “He” (Dafoe) and “She” (Gainsbourg) are having sex. Meanwhile their young child lets himself out of the crib, climbs up to the window (blown open by an act of nature, the wind) and plummets to his death while She simultaneously orgasms.

From here on the film is separated into four chapters and an epilogue. Chapter one feels like a Bergman movie and is aptly titled “Grief”. The style of the cinematography has done a 180 from the prologue and is now very loose and handheld. There are jump cuts and pans that seem intuitive rather than planned and storyboarded like the prologue must have been. The dialogue also seems very fluid (Dafoe says in one of the special features that rehearsals are not allowed on a Von Trier set). The scenes of Gainsbourg suffering anxiety are so powerful that they are hard to watch. Dafoe, her husband, is also a therapist. He tries to treat her as if she were a patient. She is unstable, and as the film progresses we find out just how much, but He is manipulative and likes the power he has over her during this mourning period. Although he is the voice of reason, I found myself strongly disliking his character throughout the first half of the movie.

During one of his exercises he asks her what she is scared of. Her response is the woods, where she and the child retreated in the summer so she could write her thesis on “gynocide”. They take a train to their vacation spot in the woods called “Eden”, and He continues to psychoanalyze her, but at this point the psychology becomes much more abstract, and I have to admit to feeling confused at certain parts of the film. In between therapy sessions He starts to notice strange things happening around the woods, and the ugliness of nature. He also discovers her paper on the torture and killings of women based on the theory that their sexuality has a direct link to Satan. At some point in her research her thesis became skewed and she started to believe that women are in fact evil by nature. She takes on the guilt and eventually acts accordingly.

To continue on with the plot would be a disservice to those who haven’t seen it, but the film spirals into a full-fledged horror movie with scenes so extreme that the theater I saw it in handed out warning pamphlets for the squeamish before entering. This was not a William Castle gimmick, I believe this was actually done to protect themselves.

The DVD/ Blu Ray is a double disc Criterion release. The second disc has behind-the-scenes featurettes on the acting, production design, music, cinematography, special FX, and the animals of ANTICHRIST (my personal favorite. These were not CG, they used real trained crows, deer, and foxes and actually applied prosthetics to some) There are also interviews and videos from it’s premiere at Cannes, including one Q and A session where an audience member, obviously offended by the film and having a visceral reaction to it, demands that Von Trier explain himself. Trier refuses, says they are all his guests and with a straight face cllaims that he is the best director in the world. Von Trier is funny like that; throughout the interviews you never know if he is being serious or just wants to get a reaction out of people. You start to wonder the same thing about ANTICHRIST. It walks a fine line between arthouse and exploitation. It’s obvious that certain moments (shown in extreme close ups) are there for shock value, but in its defense, the same can be said about the eye-slitting scene in UN CHIEN ANDALOU, which many argue to be the greatest art film ever made, so I’ll let you be the judge.

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