• Post category:Movies
  • Post last modified:September 24, 2020

Antichrist: Chaos Reigns



In the 1890s, the Swedish writer August Strindberg published a book called “Inferno”, chronicling a severe bout of depression that had left him unable to work for a long time. It was telling that Lars von Trier chose to call Antichrist his personal “Inferno”, a movie he made while not yet completely recovered from his own depression. It is a descent into hell that caused violent reactions upon its screening in Cannes. Still, it is his most interesting work of art since Dogville (2003).

Divided into four chapters
Originally, the purpose was to create a horror movie. Even though von Trier certainly has made something genuinely uncomfortable, Antichrist is no more a genre piece than anything else he has directed. Divided into four chapters, with a prologue and epilogue, the movie begins with a couple (Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg) having sex while their young son Nic climbs out of his crib and falls out a window. The child dies and the parents are devastated. The woman is admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The man is a therapist and decides to take his wife home and treat her on his own.

Unsuccessful at first, the man eventually tries exposure therapy and drives her to the place she fears the most, a cabin in the woods called Eden where the couple had spent the previous summer. However, both of them suffer from strange visions out in the wilderness and the woman’s attempts to cure her grief with violent sex take a turn for the worse…

Accusations of mysogyny
The director’s depiction of women in earlier films had met with criticism, but after Antichrist accusations of misogyny were thrown in his face. It would seem that von Trier derives some kind of pleasure from humiliating and tormenting his female characters because he always returns to this theme in his films. But it is also possible that the sex of Gainsbourg’s character here is not important to the story, that her deranged state of mind, violent behavior and self-loathing are reflections of von Trier himself. Yes, a vagina is mutilated in one scene… but there’s also crushed testicles in another scene, so everyone gets to suffer.

Watching this movie is like having von Trier’s depression painted on a big canvas, and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle is his supremely capable illustrator. The visual design of the film is outstanding, first introducing a stark, wintry black-and-white prologue and then a forest landscape that looks forbidding and mythical. This extremely stylized look is heavy with symbolism and increases the sense of dread… but it is also a majestically beautiful experience. The only people who inhabit this exquisite nightmare are Dafoe and Gainsbourg, both excellent as the couple, particularly the latter who has more of a challenge. Say what you will about von Trier’s attitude toward women, but he always gives them the best opportunities to shine in his films.

Much is startling about Antichrist, but the talking fox may be the high-point. It tells Dafoe that “chaos reigns”, which pretty much sums up the situation. Perhaps the director tried to bring order to his personal chaos with this film, one of the most disturbing depictions of a depression ever made.

Antichrist 2009-Denmark-Germany-France-Sweden-Italy-Poland. 105 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Meta Louise Foldager. Written and directed by Lars von Trier. Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle. Cast: Willem Dafoe (He), Charlotte Gainsbourg (She).

Trivia: The director had been planning to make this movie for many years, but when the executive producer told the press that it would end with the revelation that Earth was created by Satan, not God, a furious von Trier delayed the shoot and rewrote the script. Eva Green was allegedly considered for the female part. Dafoe provides the (distorted) voice of the fox.

Cannes: Best Actress (Gainsbourg). European Film Awards: Best Cinematographer.

Quote:¬†‚ÄúA crying woman is a scheming woman.‚ÄĚ (Gainsbourg)

Last word:¬†“There was no pleasure in doing this film. I made myself write 10 pages of script every day. The only way to get out of bed was to make this decision and stick to it. When it came to filming, I was not mentally capable to hold the camera and shoot. I was helpless like an old man in a wheelchair. It was a humiliating way to work.” (von Trier, The Guardian)



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