Thursday, August 6, 2009

Antichrist (2009)

So much furore over a film ... The talk of the Cannes this year wasn't how deserving Michael Haneke's black and white WW1 drama, A White Ribbon was. Two films made a splash on the croisette: Tarantino's long-awaited WW2 flick, Inglorious Basterds and the Danish wunderkid and aerophobic Lars Von Trier's Antichrist. The talk of the town regarding QT's latest was that it was rather lukewarm, unfunny, and long - a bit like the Kill Bill debacle. As for Antichrist the critics had drawn their swords to tear it to pieces for its overt sexuality and violence. It's a Lars Von Trier film - anything less would be a disappointment.

It is not fair to label Antichrist as a film hell-bent on gynocide and real sex. And, to get the white elephant out of the room, there is a scene with penal penetration up close, a scene with male ejaculation, and a female castration. The film ain't all that, though.

Charlotte Gainsborough anf Willem Defoe are Woman and Man respectively. During a lustful love-making, their infant son falls down an open window to his demise. The pair mourn their loss in different ways: Man (ever so rational, of course) tries to cope with it by pretty much ignoring what happened. Woman (ever so irrational, of course) goes through hysteric fits that border on insanity. Man is a psychiatrist and suggests they go to Eden - a cabin in the woods where Woman and Nick, their son, spent the previous Summer. Eden also happens to be where Woman's fears originate.

The film is separated into three parts, plus an prologue and an epilogue. Named after the Three Beggars (Grief, Pain, and Despair), it creates a neat frame for the story, but really what it does is force its narrative on to the viewer. It is a little distracting, but hey ... it's Lars Von Trier. He can do whatever he wants. The acting, also, is a little ... how do I say it ... dodgy. Defoe is very removed and Gainsborough does a good job, but it's nothing spectacular.

The first part is actually very dull and never takes off, until they arrive at the Eden. And it is here that the film really finds its mettle - Woman's actions start to worry Man, who is also seeing animals that are mouthpieces for Satan. The climax is as painful an experience as watching the rape scene in Irreversible (2002) ... perhaps even more. However, I didn't think for one moment that they were gratuitous. They are not shocking and seem like logical progressions in the story. (Note: if you want to see a really disturbing female genital mutilation, I recommend Kim ki-duk's brilliant, The Isle. If you want to see a male genital mutilation that comes out of nowhere, I recommend Paul Verhoeven's last Dutch film before he ventured out to Hollywood, The Fourth Man).

Misogyny is always apparent in Lars Von Trier films, but I'm of the opinion that he doesn't do it on purpose. Or, let's just say they are no more misogynistic than your regular Hollywood film. Pick any one. As disturbing as the whole film was, the last scene haunted me more than any other. It is a clear act of misogyny, yes. But, as a cinematic tool, it's beautiful. I am not dismissing the subject on the merits of a film aesthetic, but whatever Von Trier wants to say (nature is woman is evil), he says it better than anybody else. This is the second best horror film of the year (after Let the Right One in, of course) but it is no less astonishing.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails