Directed by: Lars von Trier
Premise: After the accidental death of their son, a couple (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) travels to a cabin to deal with their grief and in the process unleash the evil resting within each other.
What Works: Antichrist is a film that impresses in its commitment and audacity. The production values of the film are very impressive, and it manages intense visuals that are beautiful while conveying difficult or violent actions. Director Lars von Trier aims for the rarely treaded territory of films like Pier Passolini’s Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom and in several scenes the film gets there, casting violence, sexuality, and sadomasochism as a means for expressing deeper psychological issues. Antichrist is a film that pushes boundaries, especially sexual ones, as it adopts images that would generally be confined to hardcore pornography and then sets those images in a highly stylized art film.
What Doesn’t: Although Antichrist is audacious and at times very technically impressive, the film’s story and themes are muddled to say the least. What starts off as a film about grief and guilt turns into an exploration of evil and human nature and the connection between these two thematic priorities really isn’t there. In the second half of the film, the couple bursts into scenes of violence against one another but it is not clear or even suggested why they are doing this and in the end Antichrist does not add up to anything.
Bottom Line: Antichrist is a bold film but it’s also a disjointed mess. Whatever the film might have to say about grief, guilt, or mankind’s capacity for evil gets lost in the film’s clumsy attempt to synthesize too many different ideas.
Episode: #268 (December 13, 2009)