Just in time for Easter, I watched notoriously sadistic filmmaker Lars von Trier’s (Dancer in the Dark, Dogville) controversial psycho-horror film, Antichrist, and wow, is this a loathsome, powerfully unpleasant experience. There’s about five minutes of worth in this whole film. In a beautifully shot black and white prologue, we watch a couple (Charlotte Gainsbourg, Willem Dafoe) have sex and, unbeknownst to them, their baby falls out a window and dies. It’s all downhill from there and at rapid speed. The remaining movie explores Gainsbourg’s trauma and grief and her husband’s therapeutic attempts to cure his wife. There’s a somewhat intriguing premise buried underneath the mounds of psychobabble — a husband blurring the lines of professionalism to become his partner’s therapist. There are some complex ethical and emotional areas to explore there, but alas, von Trier takes his characters to a spooky cabin in the woods (named “Eden” for maximum metaphorical pretension) and the move becomes one long, incomprehensible, pompous trek into weirdness and pseudo-intellectualism. von Trier wants his movie to be disturbing, so he packs it will strange images like a dead talking fox (“Chaos reigns”) and a stillborn baby dear handing from the back of its mother, intending to convey the ruthless brutality of the natural world that his characters must navigate. Except I never cared about these characters at all. We never get to know them, so we can’t really feel for them, so when they start becoming unhinged it has no dramatic weight. Their lengthy conversations are a drag, and one psychology exercise after another doesn’t make much sense. The von Trier narrative model (woman is relentlessly tortured) is alive and well and leads to some shocking scenes of over-the-top sexual violence. von Tier’s attitude toward women, and female sexuality, has always been somewhat sketchy; is he an exploitative misogynist or a cloaked feminist arguing that the male-dominated world cannot handle feminine sexuality and independence? I feel like von Trier is an artist that could be diagnosed with Munchausen’s by proxy syndrome.
Nate’s Grade: D+
Posted on February 22, 2010, in 2009 Movies and tagged bad movies, charlotte gainsbourg, dark, indie, lars von trier, mental illness, pretentious, willem dafoe. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.