Antichrist (2009) – directed by Lars von Trier, with William Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg

Antichrist is one of the most disturbing movies ever made. It’s not just the violence and sexuality, it’s the whole question of what human nature is. And especially feminine nature. A theme that was already brilliantly discussed in Dogville.

The director’s obsession about the evil inside us is served in Antichrist in four chapters: „Grief”, „Pain (Chaos Reigns)”, „Despair (Gynocide)” and „The Three Beggars”, in addition to a prologue and an epilogue, all displayed over abstract designs by Danish artist Per Kirkeby.

All the story is a cry of pain. The soundrack wisely adds to the atmosphere: ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ from ‘Rinaldo’, composed by Handel. Slow motion images are used to create the poetry of the movie. And indeed, there’s authentic poetry involved. It’s a blend of sadistic acts and tender care, reason and madness, myth and reality. An entire cultural history revealed through one couple with no names. Motherhood, male dominance, the relationship with nature, fear and sins, death and procreation. The mixture of pleasure and guilt points out the Christian mark on our mentality. It’s not a movie looking for comercial success. It’s a movie well thought in every detail. Yet, introducing the talking fox is a mistake that nearly ruins the whole work. Except for that ridiculous moment, the symbolism is very well mastered till the end.

Immersed into her studies about evil, SHE is so deeply influenced by them that she starts to alter reality.  Eden becomes  Hell and the child is tortured by his own mother.  Her madness and guilt did not begin when the child died, but much earlier. Love of any kind was distorted in the woods. On the territory of evil, she changes gradually. The movie presents only the last phases, letting us guess the previous ones.

HE, on the other hand, is all intellect and makes her his project. She repeatedly asks him: „Why do you always need to prove you’re the smartest?” He is all controlled and distanced. (She calls him on his tendency towards emotional detachment). He arrogantly and ineffectually tries to control the predatory chaos that is nature/woman/insanity(?) with his rationality, his exercises and his little triangular model on a slip of paper. When these fail, he seeks shelter in the womb of mother earth herself (the fox hole), to no avail of course, as nature is not on his side. The rebirth doesn’t really do anything for him though; after being mutilated, buried alive and dug out again he’s still in full, detached therapist mode: „Did you want to kill me?” „No, not yet.”

In a cultural environment dominated by males, everything misterious and scarry is associated with women. Vegetation, night and feelings are all facets of our feminine nature. Usually, it is through them that evil manifests itself. Entire centuries kept repeating that women are dangerous, they are evil. Women are weights around men’s legs. They keep them captive and won’t let them leave (and Lars von Trier turns this idea into cinematographic reality). What happens when they really start to belive they are bad?

SEXUALITY, too, is a physical desire, something in nature’s sphere, and thus mostly female. The man takes part too, of course, and getting the female into some kind of submission is the rare occasion when, at least in the short term,  nature is obedient.  And of course, sexuality is linked to death.

GYNOCIDE. The scene where many women climb the hill to the burning „witch” is a reminder of a true genocyde made by all misoginistic ideologies throughout history. Is that where the Antichrist lies? Or are we supposed to infer that various atrocities committed against women are really a legitimate form of self-defense? Men’s attempt to save themselves from a malicious, female nature?

Antichrist received the first ever „anti-award” in the history of Cannes Festival, but also the award for Best  Actress at  Palme d’Or given to Charlotte Gainsbourg.


~ de AlinaT pe 02/10/2009.

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