Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

New York Film Festival: Antichrist

There was a loud thump. People started yelling for help and screaming “Lights! Lights!” until the lights finally came on and police entered the theatre. By that point the man who had fell was alright and they started the movie back up. At the New York Film Festival screening of Antichrist a man had a seizure and passed out during the screening. I have seen a lot of graphic and disturbing movies including Irreversible, Oldboy and basically every Takashii Miike film.

I had always wondered what it would be like to watch such films in a theatre and always found it interested when I read stories about how people would walk out or get sick at movies like Irreversible. I finally got to experience such an event at the festival. Honestly though people need to realize what type of film they are getting into when they attend a screening. This is the New York Film Festival crowd we are talking about here. You figure they would be aware of Lars Von Trier and the type of movies he directs. Plus there has been a lot of buzz about this graphical nature of this film since its screening in Cannes months ago.

All drama aside, Antichrist is not a very good movie. It only features two characters, and we don’t even know their names. They are a couple played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg and both give highly effective performances. Charlotte is especially outstanding and it is known that Von Trier is always highly demanding of his female leads (Bjork, Nicole Kidman).

The opening scene cuts back in slow motion between to events going on simultaneously, the two main characters having sex and their child fleeing from his crib and heading towards an open window. Suffice to say you know what happens. They go into mourning but she is unable to recover and is psychologically damaged. He tries to use various methods to help improve her being but nothing seems to be working. Eventually they both go “to the woods” in what is obviously not a very wise decision for a woman with her mental sickness.

He continues to try different methods on her but nothing works. She is overridden with sexual guilt and obviously blames their lust for the death of their child. The violence happens very suddenly and is in your face. Some of the things she does to her partner and herself I would not wish on any human being.

During the Q and A Willem Dafoe said Von Trier had been depressed for months while in the process of writing this screenplay and it definitely shows within the story. Von Trier is clearly a downer and I respect that. I like depressing films as much as any genre but there needs to be some redeeming features and lessons learned. Dogville had both while Antichrist had neither. It’s well shot, well acted and worth seeing once just for the spectacle of it all but don’t try making any sense of it.

2 1/2 / 5 stars

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