johnlink ranks ANTICHRIST (2009)

This is a film which demands discussion. This is not I, ROBOT or TRANSFORMERS or even something like Hitchcock’s TO CATCH A THIEF. No, ANTICHRIST needs to be talked about and figured on. But you need to see it in order to participate. There are spoilers below, so see it before reading. Know that there are two versions. A squirm-inducing unedited film and a still brutal, but more stomachable version. The latter is playing on IFC (and would still earn a hard R) and is the version this ranking uses. Again, SPOILERS BELOW, so jump at your own risk except maybe to view the trailer.

I watched ANTICHRIST (2009) on 6.6.10 (would have been more fitting if it was 6.6.6). It was my first viewing of the film. TRAILER HERE

First of all, this is a hard film to rank. Looking at two recent films which I watched, both PRIMER and THE HURT LOCKER received “film” scores of 8. How they arrived at these scores is very different. PRIMER is a microscopically budgeted mind-fuck film which flexes its strengths in thematic questions. THE HURT LOCKER is a big, pretty, Oscar film which had the money to make its locations look authentic (which is not a knock. The film was beautiful). Thematically it wasn’t as strong for me as PRIMER, but they arrived at their score for different reasons.

If I were to just rank ANTICHRIST for its look, the score would probably be a ten. But I have major issues with its thematic makeup. I’m not here to say that the film absolutely hates women, but it certainly does not trust them. The imagery and symbolism of the three beggars is well-placed, but the heavy-handedness of the still-birthed dear and the talking self-masticating fox give the film a hyper-reality which both foreshadows and betrays its tumultuous climax.

I don’t have a problem with the content, though I know I saw neither the ejaculating blood penis nor the clitoris removal (incidentally, the IFC version also omits the seemingly unnecessary penetration shot in the beautifully filmed opening). As a point of fact, I feel as though the movie was so much in the mind, that requiring the viewer to imagine these horrible moments is more effective than showing them would have been. There is a curious part of me which would like to see the unedited version, but there is another part of me which can’t imagine it adds anything.

The acting in this film is top notch. Two actors (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg), in limited settings, hashing out some horribly traumatic experiences. The despair is tangible, and the primal sexual tension is more animal then romance (after the opening scene that is). The characters are sometimes masochistic and sometimes sadistic (he emotionally, she both physically and emotionally).

The script is sparse, but powerful. This is not a script which could have been directed by someone else. Supposedly, Lars von Trier was immensely depressed before and during this shoot. It shows in the melancholy of the world he creates. Yet there is a beauty in the filming which rises above the horror of the characters’ world.

This is not an easily accessible film, and I’m not sure if I enjoy it at all. I know it was solid film making, but I’m not sure why it was made. At the end of REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, I at least knew why the film was made when the credits rolled, despite my immediate feeling of gloom. At the end of ANTICHRIST I felt the gloom without the validation of any sort of moral.


FILM: 5; MOVIE: 6; ACTING: 9; WRITING: 7; BONUS: 1 (What is this?)

The bonus point here is for the cinematography, which is the reason this movie will remain in my mind for a long time. The slow motion choices were hauntingly effective, creating a sense of horror without ever cheating with the use of trickery. The pain in this film is earned honestly through the lens of the camera and the emotion of its actors. There is a sense of patience in the shooting of this film which permeates throughout.

Also, I feel like this point allows me to give the film a slightly lower ‘film’ score due to my issues with its thematic choices.

TALLY: 5+6+9+7+1=28


~ by johnlink00 on June 7, 2010.

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