In Lars von Trier's most mainstream movie to date - which still isn't very mainstream at all - Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg star in what is easily the most twisted movie of 2009, Antichrist. Though its intent still eludes me, Antichrist is also one of the most captivating and visually engaging movies of the year.
In Antichrist, Dafoe and Gainsbourg star as a married couple who are attempting to get over the loss of their only child. As the two have passionate, hardcore sex in the bedroom, the child climbs up to an open window and plummets in magnificent slow motion to the sidewalk below, his life ending in an instant. Dafoe, playing an unnamed therapist, takes it upon himself to treat his wife by taking her into the woods of Eden - a place she fears with all her heart because it reminds her of her son. Once there, though, the two are immersed in an increasingly bleak world of tension and misery - though to explain what truly happens or what the movie is about is both hard to explain and a betrayal of the film's shocking developments.
As with all Lars von Trier movies, Antichrist is not for everyone. In fact, it's made for very few people. If any of these things bother you, it's best to stop reading now (SPOILER ALERT): Willem Dafoe's penis; children dying; an intentionally subdued and confusing narrative; dead animals; Willem Dafoe's penis spurting blood; sexual organ mutilation; talking foxes (that do not sound like George Clooney); a psychological mind trip.
To be blunt, Antichrist is not a comedy. It's not a horror film in the traditional sense of the word, either, though "traditional" and "Lars von Trier" never coexist in the same sentence unless talking about polar opposites. Antichrist is what it is, and it is an excellent film that few will truly appreciate.
To analyze the film on a psychological level is beyond me at this point, because I'm still trying to figure out what it's about, and it's way too late and a couple beers into the day to give it a proper assessment. But Antichrist is one of the most visually stimulating movies of the year, full of extreme slow motion shots that tremble with emotion and other tricks of the trade that few directors have mastered. The movie looks incredible, and its look complements the moods and happenings of the movie.
But it's what happens in the movie that is most memorable. Antichrist progresses at a slow but methodical pace, drawing the audience in as von Trier masterfully shapes his characters. And then he turns the movie - and its characters - on its head, descending into an intoxicating madness that is both mesmerizing and shockingly disturbing. To be blunt once again, Antichrist is one f**ked up movie.
Both Dafoe and Gainsbourg, the only two actors credited in the film, turn in excellent performances. Though a little less Dafoe penis would have been nice, he makes for a compelling protagonist; Gainsbourg's performance is simply career-making. She is incredible.
Antichrist isn't for everyone, but for those looking for something out of the ordinary and extremely messed up, it is well worth a trip into darkness.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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