Antichrist (2009)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller, Supernatural Horror  |   Release Date - Oct 23, 2009 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 104 min.  |   Countries - Germany , Denmark , France , Italy , Poland , Sweden   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Courting controversy has always been the de facto artistic goal of writer-director Lars von Trier. With Antichrist, he pursues that goal even more single-mindedly than ever before. The hubbub surrounding Antichrist appeared in forms both internal and external to the actual film; internal, because it contains some of the most graphic sexual violence ever to hit mainstream cinema, and external, because von Trier proclaimed himself the greatest director in the world while doing publicity interviews. The former transgression might logically nullify the latter assertion, but Antichrist is, in fact, quite beautiful, in its way. Anthony Dod Mantle's camerawork is gorgeous, entrancing us through dreamy slow motion, watery palettes of color, and unconventional framing, all of it augmented by the haunting sound design. Furthermore, von Trier's examination of the paralysis of grief is as thought-provoking as it is, in most respects, earnest. The million-dollar question, then: Did he really have to show such brutality in order to get his point across? And if so, what was his point, exactly? The act in question -- or multiple acts, depending on your personal tolerance level -- begs us to consider whether von Trier actually hates women, a theory that has always seemed credible, given the punishments endured by the female characters in his previous films. But his biggest problem is not the imagery itself. You can justify almost anything if you can demonstrate its narrative purpose, or if the outcome of events flows logically from what came before. That's not the case here. Grieving may turn Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg -- who give bold, unflinching performances -- into deteriorated husks, but von Trier needed to consider whether A plus B equaled C, if he really wanted to sidestep accusations of misogyny. Then again, being who he is, such accusations probably only fueled the director's sense of rebellious iconoclasm.