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Antichrist - DVD Review

Antichrist

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 1 out of 5

LARS von Trier boldly insists that he makes no excuse for Antichrist while proudly describing it as the most important film of his career.

It’s undoubtedly the most notorious and unquestionably the most extreme. Yet it’s also one of the worst films of the year, containing graphic sequences that really have no place in any movie.

The Danish director is known for provocative works, including Breaking The Waves, Dancer In The Dark and Dogville, but few of his past films have arrived with as much pre-release hype as this.

Antichrist received a vicious critical backlash at Cannes, where it was booed, and it’s easy to see why. When the film isn’t attempting to shock, it bores viewers to death amid a pretentious storyline that’s supposed to be allegorical and reflective of the director’s depressed state of mind while making it.

The film begins with extreme penetrative sex in super slow-mo, as a married couple (Willem Dafoe’s He and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s She) fulfil themselves sexually, oblivious to the fact that their child is about to fall to his death while staring out the window.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, He persuades She to join him at a secluded cabin in the woods where He (as a therapist) can treat her depression.

But as the surounding woods begin to torment She, the couple eventually turn on each other with extremely bloody results.

Critics have been divided over whether Antichrist is a psychological essay posing as horror, or a horror film posing as something more cerebral. Certainly, it contains elements of both.

But it also feels like on-screen therapy for the director that displays little or no regard for audience empathy. Quite simply, He and She struggle to engage as characters and fail to hold any sympathy in spite of the tragedy that kickstarts their treatment process.

What’s left is a film that virtually invites audiences to scream out for the notorious stuff, just so that they can find out what the fuss is all about.

En route, the use of imagery such as a disembowelled talking fox and a miscarrying deer just feels pretentious and is a pre-cursor to the disturbing acts that follow, including He’s genitals being crushed by a block of wood and then being masturbated to the point of bloody climax, and She performing a close-up clitorectimy with a rusty pair of scissors.

Such scenes are designed to shock, and do, but they don’t really hold much relation to what’s come before and feel unnecessarily exploitative and even tacky in the way that most “torture porn” movie moments do.

Gainsbourg and Dafoe, to be fair, give committed performances but their presence merely enables the film to garner more attention and interest than it really deserves.

Antichrist, for all its arty pretension and lofty ambition, haunts and lingers for all the wrong reasons. It’s a film you’ll wish you’d never seen – not just because of the horrific nature of the final acts, but because of its complete failure to grip or engage along the way.

It is, quite simply, a terrible movie.

Antichrist… the case for the movie

Certificate: 18
Running time: 109mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: January 11, 2010