ANTICHRIST. 2009. DIRECTED BY LARS VON TRIER. STARRING WILLEM DAFOE AND CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This film seems to divide opinion a great deal more than your average horror movie. People I’ve talked to seem to either love it or hate it. They either think that Lars Von Trier is a genius or a poncy prat with notions above his station, haha.
Me, well, I admit that I bought the film mainly because the cover of the DVD box has a nudie couple having sex on it. I was intrigued, you might say. After watching it for myself, my verdict is as follows. Although I probably won’t revisit it too many more times in my lifetime, I think it’s a slow burner with a good (but painful!) pay-off. There were things I liked about it and things I wasn’t crazy about. Let’s go into it a little more, shall we, movie buffs…?
I like the subject matter. The idea of a couple going to their isolated cabin in the woods to recover from the most traumatic event you can possibly imagine (you can probably guess what that is) is a winner in my book. The woods are breathtakingly beautiful, so that was a big plus too. The couple themselves are a little more complicated to sum up.
Willem Dafoe plays ‘The Man.’ I loved him in SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, in which he starred with John Malkovich to tell the story of the making of F.W. Murnau’s iconic film, NOSFERATU. As The Man in this film, he’s handsome and solid and seems to be handling the Traumatic Event much better than The Woman, who goes to pieces completely.
Here’s the interesting thing, though. The Man is a therapist, and he involves himself in The Woman’s recovery in a way that is clearly inappropriate. He’s too close to the patient, so how could he possibly be objective and figure out what’s really best for her? The short answer is that he can’t.
He urges her to throw away her pills and go to the woods known ironically as Eden for some ‘exposure therapy.’ Say what…? See, The Woman has admitted that her second greatest fear is Nature, so her other half thinks that the best thing for her to do is to go and immerse herself good and proper in the thing she fears.
Shame she only admits to fearing Nature and not, say, hunky male strippers. Personally, The Woman’s idea of curing herself with wild, violent sex appeals to me more than The Man’s proposed programme of treatment but whatever, the die is irrevocably cast.
Off they toddle to the woods where, as if you haven’t already guessed, all hell (literally) breaks loose. The Woman’s true state of mind is revealed under stomach-churning circumstances. She spends almost their entire woodland sojourn ‘breaking his balls,’ as the Mafia so colourfully refer to it, and keeping his nose to the grindstone (well, not so much his nose) so that he’s obliged to rethink and revise his policies vis-a-vis curing his significant other all by himself. Not before she cuts right to the heart of the matter herself, however, with a rather hefty pair of scissors…
I liked The Man, even if he’s a little smug and superior at times. I mostly disliked The Woman. I hated her quiet, barely audible accent (the movie only had subtitles in Danish or Italian, so I could hardly hear her at times) and her abrasive attitude. Even knowing what she’d been through didn’t make me warm to her more. I loved the gorgeous setting though, as I’ve already said.
I could probably have done without the film’s being divided into five named sections but, as they were kind of necessary to the plot, I’ll have to let that go. The imagery of stillborn or aborted births everywhere is clever and spooky and not hard to understand. The animals are sweet, but also so sad. I found the Traumatic Event upsetting to watch, but it was certainly done with perfect timing.
The scene in the fox-hole is something you almost certainly won’t see anywhere else. The references to the Salem Witch Trials and the ways in which women were poorly-treated throughout history is a nice creepy ingredient in the mix.
With regards to the film’s so-called ‘extreme’ levels of violence, in all honesty I think I’ve seen worse, for example in the HOSTEL films. I wouldn’t reject the film on the basis of extreme violence alone.
I can’t say that I enjoyed ANTICHRIST exactly, but it made a powerful impact for sure. After watching it, I lay in bed all that night with my legs tightly crossed to protect my ‘rosebud,’ for one thing. Before any guys reading this bit start sniggering, however, don’t worry, lads. There’s stuff in there for you lot too…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY