Thursday, October 30, 2014

Antichrist (2009)

I thought that maybe Lars von Trier was a feminist after watching Nymphomaniac (also starring Charlotte Gainsbourg), but the point of Antichrist seems to be that misogyny is justified because women are evil. But I don't think it's a sexist message so much as a plainly misanthropic one. Nymphomaniac taught us that murder is natural to humans, and Antichrist seems to want to say that the nature of humanity is evil - and women shouldn't get a free pass just because historical injustices may have been done to them. If you think about it, that's actually an egalitarian stance, but it would be more inspiring if it weren't so damn cynical and pessimistic.

I loved the symbolism of the "three beggars" - grief, pain, and despair - represented by three haunting animal guides. And the themes of nature and its inhumanity (at least until the movie twists it around and emphasizes that people are animals too) are chilling and beautiful and horrible all at once. Von Trier is an excellent cinematographer, and much of this movie consists of haunting atmospherics. I also like his frank approach to sexuality - this movie actually features explicit intercourse, but in a way that feels more arty than pornographic. It's just a shame this approach is wasted on a person with such an apparently damaged psyche. I mean, one of the two main characters in this movie is a therapist, but I feel like von Trier could use some therapy himself. If his movies are any indication, he's got a very unhealthy relationship with sex.

One thing is for sure - Lars von Trier's films are consistently frustrating. And it's too bad, because this movie had the makings to be a masterpiece of psychological horror, reaching levels of surreality that approach David Lynch's most haunting dream sequences. But, like Lynch, von Trier isn't very good at telling stories. I beg you to watch the first half of this movie, because it's that good, but I would advise you to simply shut it off halfway through, after the part where Willem Dafoe goes into the attic, because it's just downhill from there. It's not like you'd be missing any satisfying explanations. I mean, there's not even anything about the "antichrist" in this movie - that's all just a red herring to disappoint you in the end.

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