The thought process of Lars Von Trier when writing his films cannot be explained by any sane person. Antichrist follows the story of an unnamed couple (played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) after their infant child passes away. This event causes their marriage to hit a wall and their sanity to lower. In an attempt to fix their problems they retreat to an isolated wooden cabin in the woods, but as the film goes on their sanity levels lower and the evil that is present in the world takes hold.
I did not intend for this to be the first Lars Von Trier film that I review. I only saw my first film of his last week, Melancholia, and I have not been able to stop thinking of it, yet I can't come up with any points for a review. It's a film I hope to rewatch soon so I can give it a review. After watching Antichrist it seems that there will now be two films that I will not be able to get out of my head and for different reasons entirely. Lars Von Trier has been called one of the most controversial filmmakers and this statement is just too true. His style of filmmaking and the content of his movies is enough to start riots and it's a shock that they don't.
Antichrist is not a film for the faint hearted. The film is both explicit in its content and slow in its pacing. For the first hour or so of this movie there is a lot of tension, haunting imagery as well as many provocative moments. The film's frequent sex scenes are far from erotic and they ensure an uncomfortable viewing. Once the final act kicks in, as well as occasional moments in the second, the amount of grisly images increases rapidly. The film got to a point where I was forced to watch through the gaps between my fingers and that's something I rarely do. For a film to make that big an impact on me it must say something about how well the film is made.
The performances were unbelievable. The film's actors push themselves through what I can imagine would be some of the hardest to make moments and this pays off by the time the credits come along. Just by judging the poster you can imagine that the film is both uncomfortable to watch and uncomfortable to make, but Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are absolutely amazing as their characters dive from a dark place into an even darker, more sinister place.
The cinematography is spectacular, but what is filmed isn't. The content of the film is haunting and undoubtably will spark a cringe from the viewer, but this is aided by the breathtaking cinematography. The cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle, did a cracker of a job with last year's Rush as well as with his frequent collaborations with Danny Boyle. When teaming up with Lars Von Trier it was nothing, but beautiful. Between all the film's sex and violence, there's something magical about it that's been brought up through the cinematography. Mantle and Von Trier managed to capture life in its dark reality and that's something only a few filmmakers can do. I am both thankful and worried that directors like Lars Von Trier exist in this world.
To sum up, Antichrist is a not for the faint hearted with its grisly images, controversial content and unsettling sex scenes, but the performances were unbelievable and the cinematography manages to capture something beautiful.
3 1/2 Stars