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Posted by admin | Posted in Movies | Posted on 22-09-2010


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Lars von Trier (Europa, Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark) shook up the film world when he premiered Antichrist at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. In this graphic psychodrama, a grief-stricken man and woman—a searing Willem Dafoe (Platoon, The Last Temptation of Christ) and Cannes best actress Charlotte Gainsbourg (Jane Eyre, 21 Grams)—retreat to a cabin deep in the woods after the accidental death of their infant son, only to find terror and violence at the… More >>


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Comments (5)

Big Questions that need answering for this Criterion Release. Many are unthinkable for such a prestigious company as Criterion, but they’re demanded and need circulation/speculation prior to the release:

1. The Region 2 copy for France listed on Amazon is 120 minutes. This one is listed as a 108 minute runtime. The Catholic version was the one released for theaters in France. Is Criterion releasing the uncut “Catholic” version or the cut”Protestant” version? Will obtaining an unspoiled copy of a cinematic masterwork be as difficult as it currently is to find a legitimate copy of LvT’s “The Idiots”?

2. The US is a ‘prude market’ according to Zentropa Entertainments:

“We reached an agreement with Lars more than a year ago to make a ‘Catholic’ version of the movie, to cut some scenes and replace them with others,” Peter Aalbaek Jensen, the head of the Zentropa production group, told AFP.

“Otherwise it would be impossible to sell (it) to prude markets like southern Europe, Asia and the United States, where you can’t show a naked man from the front,” he said.

[taken from France 24 online news]

3. IFC’s released version was uncut.

4. IFC and Criterion recently made a merger.

5. Amazon needs to make this information available and clearly listed on the product page and the blue ray format, otherwise it WILL find itself having a disproportionately high return rate for this product.

This is a niche market. This director has a hardcore following and attracts broad interest and attention even on the merit of purely his technical skills and sensationalism that surrounds his releases. People who WANT this film want to see it, own it in its entirety.

We are not a prude market, we have prude authorities. This release will suffer severe curtailing of sales if Criterion/ifc have bent over backwards to political pressure. The Protestant version WILL be boycotted by American consumers en masse.
Rating: 5 / 5

The 2005 film Tideland opens with that film’s director Terry Gilliam informing the audience that some of them will hate it, but some will love it. That may have been a smart choice because I don’t think I would have been prepared for what I saw without that disclaimer. Lars von Trier, director of Antichrist, is too relentless to include any such warning, but if he had, it would have been more fitting to say, “Probably nobody should watch this. It’s going to give you PTSD.”

The film opens beautifully in a black-and-white sex scene between the film’s two principal characters, known simply as He and She. It is the only good and happy part of this film, so you better enjoy it, because before you know what hit you, a toddler falls out of a window to his death. After She spends months in the hospital, enduring the crippling grief over the loss of her child, He, being a psychiatrist, finally decides that no progress is being made and he must take her healing into his own hands.

This is a bad decision presumably motivated by his feelings of jealousy. Ultimately, He decides they must travel to their holiday cabin in the woods to confront her depression. What ensues are some bizarre incidents of psychological torture and ultra-violence, which the film’s press releases attribute to “nature.” Is it the inherent evil of our very human characters? Or is it possible that there is some sort of evil presence in the cabin? These questions are left appropriately abstract and further earn this film more horror credits.

And yes, this is a horror film. Von Trier claims that he failed in trying to make a horror film, but he gives himself too little credit. It may be the most genre-defying genre picture I’ve ever seen, and that is what truly elevates it.

Some have accused this film of being misogynistic. That very well may be true. I prefer to believe that it is more about the corruptibility of humans as a result of pervasive social stigmas. We are crafted by the evil which surrounds and envelopes us.

To put it mildly, Antichrist is rough stuff, and is going to be talked about by serious cinephiles for some time to come. Its cruelty transcends sensitivity, and its ugliness subverts beauty. To witness the complexity of the relationship between He and She, and the performances that generate this complexity is worth the price of admission alone.

My disclaimer? I will never recommend this movie to someone who is not curious about seeing it already. After watching Antichrist, I honestly felt rattled for the next few days, and I didn’t truly know how to feel about it. In hindsight, I’m glad I saw it. This is an unpleasantly powerful film.
Rating: 4 / 5

A woman and a man lose their son in a tragic accident. Rather than trust in the medicine prescribed by her psychiatrist to ease her grief, he (a psychotherapist) decides to subject her to his own therapeutic regime. She (in an incredibly devastating performance by Charlotte Gainsbourg) will face her fears directly, and see that there is nothing to fear. He doesn’t consider that he may have something to fear from her, or that he, with his clinical detachment from feeling and incessant preoccupation with the stance of observer, may be the one who truly needs therapy. (On that note it is hard not to detect a kinship of the themes of this film with the themes of von Trier and Jorgen Leth’s The Five Obstructions, that set up von Trier himself as therapist to Leth, whose capacity for aesthetic detachment he found troubling).

The imagery in the film is fascinating and frightening – it is certainly von Trier’s most accomplished film in terms of cinematography, and it definitely deserves to get the Criterion treatment. The prologue and epilogue are highly formalistic, shot in a series of powerful black and white images that border on the unreal; the rest of the film, broken into four chapters, is shot handheld with washed out but saturated colors, with rippling natural imagery and occasional freaks of nature that as a whole evokes a darker vision of Tarkovsky’s zone (from Stalker). The film is in fact dedicated to Tarkovsky, and suggests a kind of inversion of his values and approach: whereas Tarkovsky finds in nature the potential for transcendence, suggested but not depicted, von Trier depicts in nature the reality of hell, a “Satan’s church” where, as the fox asserts, “chaos reigns”; where Tarkovsky takes long, leisurely tracking shots, von Trier’s are a bit jerky and employ the occasional jump cut, but he also employs the trademark Tarkovskian slow zoom into extreme close up on a partial face or gesture, and also (as I recall) occasionally employs the “temporal folding” that is common in Tarkovsky’s films, where in the course of a single pan or tracking shot of the camera, events are depicted as if simultaneous that could not have been.

The film has been described by several critics as suggesting that women are evil, and the setting in a woods they call “Eden” makes it hard not to see “she” (Gainsbourg) as a kind of twisted Eve figure whose longings and obsessions introduce evil and death into the garden. Still, it seems to me that the central character in the film is “He” and the film uses him as an object lesson to provide a critical depiction of a paranoid male fantasy/nightmare. “He” (played admirably by Willem Dafoe) is a therapist who is confident of his powers, and was obsessed by his job and detached from his wife and son until the accident allowed him to treat her as patient. He had dismissed as trite her writing and research on misogyny and “gynocide” – hatred and violence against women, born of fear — and was emotionally distant from her until now she became for him a fascinating object of study. He becomes threatened and uneasy when she seems to have been cured, and seeks to continue the therapy by whatever means necessary. What she really fears, he insists, is that the male fears about women that inspired the violence she had studied were in fact true, that women are in fact evil – and that she is herself the object of her fears. When his projection onto her becomes real, when the fear he projected onto her comes to life, it becomes clear that this is his own paranoid fantasy, his own fear of aggressive female sexuality come to life allows him to justify and actualize the violent retaliation he had formerly only been able to realize against her in words, by objectifying and dismissing her.

It is as if, von Trier’s film suggests, as if the modern version of the old male fear of the feminine, expressed then by accusing powerful women of witchcraft as a justification for doing them violence, as if this fear has been transformed or sublimated into the male pretense of objectivity. An objectivity that treats women as if their fears and concerns were utterly banal, but only out of a deeper anxiety that if women were to realize that male objectivity is really a new form of witchcraft aimed at silencing women, if women were to realize this they would come into their own and that would be the real danger. The film does not, as I see it, in any way endorse this view of women, or this fear, but depicts it powerfully in the form of a perverse parody. Not for the timid, but not to be dismissed, either, as if it were merely another provocative and shocking joke by that Danish trickster, Lars von Trier. It’s a subtle and complex film, powerfully shot, darkly scintillating and dangerous.

Here’s what to expect on the Criterion release:

New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Lars von Trier and supervised by director of photography Anthony Dod Mantle (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)

Audio commentary by von Trier and professor Murray Smith

Video interviews with von Trier and actors Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg

A collection of video pieces delving into the production of Antichrist, including interviews with von Trier and key members of his filmmaking team as well as behind-the-scenes footage

Chaos Reigns at the Cannes Film Festival 2009, a documentary on the film’s world premiere, plus press interviews with Dafoe and Gainsbourg

Three theatrical trailers

PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Ian Christie
Rating: 4 / 5


Not Just a Movie, an Experience

Amos Lassen

While a couple is having sexual intercourse in one room, their son falls out of the window in another room and dies. The mother is so grief-stricken that she is hospitalized but her husband who is a therapist brings her home and wants to treat her depression himself. They decide to confront their fears and go to stay in their cabin in the woods where something terrible happened the summer before. The movie is in a sense literary in that it is told in four chapters with a prologue and epilogue and it looks at acts of lustful cruelty as the man and woman unfold the darker side of nature outside and within. I will discuss this a bit later.

This movie is an experience and I think that it is an unpleasant experience yet it must be seen. The overall tone of the movie was full of dread and presence of some sort of evil can be felt. This is a hard movie to review because it crosses all barriers when it comes to movie making and makes you question yourself about the definition of art and how far is what art is “too far”?

The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and the opening scene is sheer beauty. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are brilliant actors and they were probably emotionally drained by making the film. Oscars.

There is a great deal of violence in the film physical and sexual as well as emotional. It is very realistic and extremely effective. There were times when I wanted to look away and that does not happen in the kind of movies that I usually watch.

Lars von Trier, the director, makes films that provide himself and his audiences with thorny intellectual challenges. He does just what a Freudian psychotherapist would do in releasing obsessions. He locks the terrifying nature of the horror to the most extreme sexual images. The narrative itself follows a similar process. A psychotherapist, with the best intentions, leads his wife into the darkest recesses of her mind. But instead of releasing psychological trauma, he reinforces it, until he has to defend himself when she becomes the controlling force.

A psychotherapist (Willem Dafoe) and his wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) are making love as their young toddler climbs onto a desk to look at snowflakes outside and falls to his death. This opening prologue is operatic in its soundtrack and intensity. Exquisite photography captures water droplets in slow motion to the music of Handel. There is a very brief, aesthetically contextualized glimpse of penetration, setting the audience up for the psycho-sexual horrors that follow later. In the trauma of bereavement, husband asks his wife to visualize her worst nightmares in order to help her overcome them. She pictures the woods as symbolizing her fear, and they both retreat to an ‘Eden’ – an isolated cabin surrounded by woods.

The film is divided into six parts, including a Prologue (the lovemaking and death), Grief, Pain, and Despair; The Three Beggars, and an Epilogue. At the end of the prologue, the next three chapters are heralded by three toy soldiers from the dead son’s toy room, each appropriately named.

With Grief, comes sorrow from both leads. The players become totally substantial and color is added to the monochrome, and the characters gain some color as well.

As we go through Pain, his wife seems eventually cured but our nerves are frayed. To make this even more effective there is hypnotic pounding of acorns falling on the roof of the cabin, and the husband’s smugness as he treats his wife as a patient rather than as a human being who needs support. He forever has a self-satisfied, smart answer

Chapter three is entitled Despair (Genocide). He learns things about his wife he didn’t know before but perhaps should have. He is pulled into her nightmare. We see him soaked in the rain, at the mercy – for the first time – of the elements. The fourth chapter gives form to the imaginary content of the preceding three, and includes the most upsetting and outrageous scenes (which many may find objectionable). The epilogue provides a narrative and psychological resolution in the only way possible when things have come to such a head and we also see the story relate now to the whole of humanity.

“Antichrist” is sure to get reactions, even from audiences not geared to his work. For them, the extreme and graphic sexual imagery may be too much.

Lars von Trier’s film is a bit outrageous as it makes us try to feel something. “Antichrist” belongs to its stars. They are spectacular.

Rating: 5 / 5

I’ve just watched it and I must say that it’s one of those movies that you can’t really read or ask about what it’s like or if it’s good or bad. You must watch it and make your own opinion. I didn’t watch the clean/catholic version and, to be honest, I don’t see why anybody would want to watch an edited movie. I gave it five stars because it is totally worth watching so that you can have an opinion of your own about it. That’s why I’m not even saying whether or not I liked it or if I thought the sex/mutilation/torture scenes were needless or justified or if I think the movie deserved to be made or not.
Rating: 5 / 5

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