Cinema Mishmash

A personal and random look at movies, past and present

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Antichrist

October 12th, 2009 · No Comments

The prologue to Antichrist, Lars von Trier’s latest cinematic provocation, is among the most moving, sumptuous, beautiful imagery ever set to a score and projected for an audience. Washed in a blue monochrome, the slow-motion sequence both takes your breath away and paralyzes you. antichrist1It is so beautiful, in fact, that it nearly anesthetizes you from the horrible accident that is occuring while Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, as husband and wife, are in the throes of passionate lovemaking: their small child is falling to his death.

During the four chapters that follow, the anesthetic is steadily reduced until it is eliminated altogether. Left exposed during most jarring moments during the final chapters, your only option is to look away. But it is unlikely that you’ll be able to do so for long, because although Antichrist is perhaps von Trier’s most provocative work, it is also his most personal. The extent to which he lays open his own his own psychological hang-ups is tremendously powerful, whether or not you share them. The act of confrontation is central to not just the film’s narrative, but its very existence. And a masterful presentation of the concept of confrontation — which this is — cannot be ignored.

The story is narratively simple: The wife (“She”) is hospitalized for a month due to a severe grief reaction, but the husband (“He”), a psychotherapist, urges her to come home, stop her medication, and allow him to treat her. Sound like a bad idea? Absolutely. antichrist2His well-intentioned arrogance and her equally well-intentioned submission pave the most bizarre path toward an unrelenting hell. Ironically, arrogance and submission are often elements of the passive act of experiencing cinema. In the experience of Antichrist, neither sin goes unpunished, either by characters or the audience. And while I cannot imagine the showing of this film without the audible groans and gasps that I heard from the audience in this packed screening during the Chicago International Film Festival (after which Dafoe and critic Michael Phillips led a thoughtful Q&A), I would recommend the experience to anyone with the intellect and open mind to appreciate the value to be had from thoughtful provocation.

Tags: Director · Drama · Horror · Review

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