Antichrist (2009) Directed by Lars von Trier

Yesterday was a bad day. Flu has been hitting hard and the re-emergence of a personal nemesis was an extra irritant.  Antichrist had been lying on the shelf for a few months and I was wanting to watch something to fit my mood. I was looking for Horror, but of course this being von Trier nothing could ever be so generic. By the end of Antichrist  I realized I'd been watching a very depressed von Trier's most personal film full of conflicting ideas and not really what i expected.

Each new von Trier film seems to be greeted with equal shouts of genius or derision depending on your point of view and more often than not the results often lie somewhere in the middle. Through all the self mythologizing and the ego is an OK film maker. With Antichrist von Trier tries to deal with grief and relationships and obsession. The premise of a couple trying to mourn the death of their young child and going somewhere to heal their wounds only to discover horror is dealt with far better in Nicolas Roeg's 70's masterpiece Don't Look Now. The two films are very similar in fact and this film must have been an influence on von Trier basic premise for Antichrist. Unfortunately Antichrist falls apart half way through. It can't decide if it's a psychological drama or a horror picture and it feels like von Trier looses interest.

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe turn in beyond the call of duty performances. They go bare here in many ways. It seems what ever von Trier asks his actors to do they will do. There is trust. It's sad then that once von Trier has set up the picture to be a serious examination of post traumatic stress and depression that he cops out and unconvincingly turns to horror to make what point?  If anything you get a real sense of conservatism going on, as if von Trier is holding back from showing true horror. Yes, pointless genital mutilation is shown, some nonsense about witchcraft and you're wondering where did the picture go.  Little hints abound that the events on screen could all be a dream, it could all be happening in Dafoe's subconscious.

One always wonders if every von Trier movie is gently taking the piss. Of course the female character of Antichrist believes that women are evil. She is a mother who's child has been lost and Nature (mother?) is portrayed as a cold and scary environment. Is von Trier mocking accusations of misogyny leveled at him previously? Who knows, but it shows a previously unseen humor in von Trier.  Antichrist is interesting but flawed.


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