I thought I'd start the A - Z challenge off with a real bang and review one of the most confrontational films I've viewed in my career. It's been 3 years since I saw it, and I still couldn't tell you if it's the most brilliant piece of film making ever, or the most hideous. But it certainly is memorable....
Running Length: 104 minutes
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Director: Lars von Trier
Screenplay: Lars von Trier
Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle
Lars von Trier has always divided audiences with his vision. I personally have both loved (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark) and hated (The Idiots) his work. With Antichrist he has gone beyond anything he, and perhaps any other filmmaker has done before.
The opening section, the prologue, is in black and white and plays out in slow motion. A couple make passionate love, moving through various rooms of the house. Meanwhile, mesmerised by the beauty of falling snow outside, their young son toddles to a window and falls to his death on the concrete below.
Tormented by grief, He and She try to deal with the death together. He is a therapist, and breaking all the professional ethics associated with the profession, decides he can do a better job with his wife than anyone else. In the guise of therapy he begins controlling her, eventually convincing her to go to a cottage in the woods to get away from it all.
In the woods, nature itself is shown to be corrupt. The image of a doe by a river is undermined by the presence of a dead fawn hanging from her uterus. Beauty and horror go hand in hand here. Having been drawn in with sympathy for the pair, the horrors they mete on each other curdle that sympathy into something I can only call revulsion. The film is graphic. Both sex and torture play out without any holds barred. It is confrontational, disturbing and I found myself at several points having to cover my eyes with my hands.
It is difficult to imagine any other actors being brave enough to take on the roles of He and She. Both Dafoe and Gainsbourg are known to take risks in their performances, but this film asks them to do a lot more than just risk.
By the end of this film you will be shattered, both physically and emotionally. I can’t tell you yet if I loved it or hated it, but whatever my eventual decision is, you know it won’t be lukewarm!