Note: this review is a translation of my original review of the movie I've seen in Theaters in late 2009. Since it was one of my first long reviews I've decided to translate it for everyone's benefit. I will do series of re-edits for the films that actually were reviewed in French in the first moments of this blog.
Expectations towards this film were high and the mixed reviews following its release made me very curious about what did Lars Von Trier in his latest concoction. Having only seen his most famous films; Dancer in the Dark and Dogville my opinion was that he is talented master. Dancer in the Dark is a near-masterpiece while Dogville is an interesting experiment "à la" Bertold Brecht that tires itself after a moment.
To make my wait even longer, Antichrist was preceded by Pedro Pires' short Danse Macabre. Evenmore, the clerk that sold me my ticket asked me if I was mentally ready for the film. Well, everything to make me even more feverish for this cinematic junket that is Antichrist. There was at least twenty people into the theater where the projection of the film was about to begin. The air was thin with apprehension, fear, excitation, and probably innocence.
The film opens with a magnificent slow motion prologue shot in a clean black and white depicting the couple during the act of love at the same moment that their only son accidentally dies by jumping out of the window of his room. This sequence puts the viewer right into the core of the film. The guilt of the mother and the mourning of the lost of a child. The mother (Charlotte Gainsbourg) falls into a major depression and her path through the mourning of her son is very difficult. To cure his wife, the man (Willem Dafoe) brings her into their cabin in the woods and starts her therapy. There, everything will degenerate and their illness will be even greater. The idea behind the story is very interesting and it gives to Von Trier excellent material to work with but also something very heavy. Von Trier isn't known for falling for the easiest road.
The opening and the final sequences are linked together by the same visuals. However, the rest of the film is shot in numeric format with handheld cameras "à la" Dogme 95. These techniques give to the images a bold grain and an amateurist touch to the movements of the camera as well as a sense of reality.
However, provocation is his thing and he chooses every way he can to achieve his status of grand provocateur; explicit sex scenes, sadic violence, and a outrageous symbolism. Von Trier likes to shock is audience to demonstrate his ego-maniacal persona. Nevertheless, he leads a path where no other filmmaker has ever been and he has his own style. Like Quentin Tarantino, pretension can be a crutch but I think that in both cases those two are masters conscious of their talent and using it advisely. The final homage to Andreï Tarkovsky, one of the greatest visual poets of the seventh art, might seem very pompous, but related to Tarkovsky, Antichrist which has many religious symbolism may be linked easily with the Soviet director. Nonetheless, both filmmakers are from two different worlds, Tarkovsky made contemplative religious films gently and meticulously crafted while Von Trier has this raw and almost vulgar attitude. The director of Antichrist tortures his characters and at the same time his audience that was reduced in half during the projection of the film.