Antichrist (2009)

DVD Cover (Criterion Collection)
Genres: Horror, Psychological Thriller, Supernatural Horror
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Lars von Trier Lars von Trier
Willem Dafoe Willem Dafoe
Charlotte Gainsbourg Charlotte Gainsbourg
Storm Acheche SahlstrÝm Storm Acheche SahlstrÝm

6.6 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: March 06, 2011
Antichrist is one of the rare movies that I was able to watch completely blind. Before pushing play on my player, I knew nothing about the film: I didn't know what it was about, I didn't know who was in it, and I didn't even know what kind of reviews it got from other sites. I simply knew that it had a strong buzz behind it and that it supposedly featured some controversial scenes - that was the entirety of my knowledge about the film. Next time I kick back to watch a movie, I'm going to do a little more research.

The film runs for almost two hours, but the plot can be summed up quickly. A couple, known to us only as "He" (Willem Dafoe) and "She" (Charlotte Gainsbourg), are having extremely passionate sex while their child is playing beside an open window... five stories off the ground. The kid dies and the parents are devastated, She much more so than He. He, being a therapist by trade, decides to treat his wife himself, and the treatment eventually finds them at a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere. There, He finds out a few things about She that will shed a new light on their child's death, and She will go batshit insane. That is the plot for Antichrist at its core.

Now to be fair, there's a little more to it than that. You see, Antichrist is a pretentious arthouse flick, the kind of movie that is perfectly content to show sexually graphic footage while insisting that it has a deeper meaning. It's fine with showing us random footage that has zero relevance to the characters and events at hand while claiming that, yes, it is a subtle way of showing us clues about them. I say, bullshit. I'm not a fan of arthouse fare, but I do know enough about the "genre" to say that this was a poor man's version of it. Meaning could be attached to some of the scenes and the imagery found here if you stretch your imagination a little, but I am convinced that the vast majority of the running time was simply random shots that Lars von Trier thought would look neat on film or that he thought would be decent enough in padding the movie out.

You want to talk about padding? Jesus, does this movie have it. By an hour and change into the running time, here's what we've seen: an admittedly beautiful opening scene in which the kid dies, a man telling his wife that everything will be alright, a couple of sex scenes, and random footage of trees to spice things up. I didn't go into this expecting a Michael Bay explode-a-thon where something exciting is happening every thirty seconds, but in my ever so humble opinion, the film really needed to get down to business long before it did. Oh, and that's just the first half of the movie - once it gets moving, it's still padded out more heavily than an A-cup at senior prom.

As for the controversial scenes of the film, well, they've mostly been blown out of proportion. Let's see: there's a brief penetration shot in the opening sex sequence. Alright, we don't see that often outside of pornography, so I'll give them that one even though the vast majority of us have not only seen but performed that very act. There's also a lot of nudity, which, again, is a little out of the norm for such a semi-major release, but I doubt it's anything that you haven't seen before - I mean, depending on your gender, you either saw it this morning in the shower or you first saw it at the age of five on late-night Cinemax. The one truly shocking scene of the film lasts for about two seconds, and though I won't spoil it, I will say that it was definitely a memorable sight. Again, I didn't go into the film exclusively for shocking footage, but knowing the controversy behind the film, I have to admit that I expected more and was left feeling a little let down.

The one saving grace of the film is the performances, and I will readily admit that Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg were both fantastic in their roles. There's not a single bad thing that I can say about their acting abilities in this film, but I can say that I really wish they had been given a little something more to work with. Watching Gainsbourg spiral down into insanity is a treat, and when she finally hits rock bottom and takes it out on Dafoe, well... it's definitely a testament to their talents. Unfortunately, by the time we reach that peak, the film is almost to the credits.

Taken at face value, Antichrist isn't a very good film. There's tons of symbolism and imagery that one could use to attach additional meaning to the film, but considering that even writer / director Lars von Trier doesn't seem to know what half of it means according to his interviews, I think it's safe to say that it's more a case of "let's throw this in there and hope the arthouse crowd gobbles it up" than genius writing. Don't say I didn't get it - I got it, and I just didn't want it. 3/10, and most of that is for the handful of visually-appealing scenes that, while having minimal relevance to the film as a whole, simply looked good.
crucibelle #1: crucibelle - added 03/06/2011, 03:49 PM
Totally disagree with this review. Yeah, it's artsy fartsy, but I love movies like that. Everyone should check this out, IMO.
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