Nature is Satan’s church
The H-Bomb: A married couple is in the middle of making love, when their toddler son Nic escapes from his crib, makes his way up to a windowsill, and falls to his death. This plunges his mother, She (Charlotte Gainsbourg- â€ś21 Gramsâ€ť, â€śThe Science of Sleepâ€ť), into a deep depression. The father, He (Willem Dafoe), believes that she is not being treated properly by her psychiatrist. Himself a therapist, He feels that the best treatment for her is a retreat to their secluded cabin in the forest of Eden. Big mistakeâ€¦
Danish filmmaker Lars von Trierâ€™s latest film was a firebrand of controversy when it premiered in Cannes last year. During the movieâ€™s press conference, one journalist stood up and angrily demanded that von Trier â€śjustify himselfâ€ť for making this film. While â€śAntichristâ€ť is certainly dark and disturbing, filled with a number of unsettling images, I believe that many have overstated how â€śshockingâ€ť it is.
While its detractors were upset by it, and dismissed it simply as being the work of a director trying to get a rise out of people, I found it to be an intriguing, provocative look at a coupleâ€™s decent into madness after suffering from an unimaginable tragedy. Itâ€™s a movie filled with cryptic, surreal imagery and sequences that ultimately, much like a David Lynch film, leaves it open to endless interpretation.
Much could be made of the title, but whether the series of unfortunate events that unfold in the story are the work of the forces of evil, or are simply things that He and She bring upon themselves through their own psychological unraveling, whoâ€™s to say?
I personally lean toward the latter. At first, She is the one who seem most shattered and traumatized by her sonâ€™s death. He died while she was having passionate sex with her husband, and She feels deep guilt, like She was being punished for her lust, her sin. He, on the other hand, at first comes across as the calm, rational one. He is her rock, and He will help her through her sorrow. However, once they are alone at the cabin, He starts to see (hallucinate?) some strange things, and the sanity of both of them comes into question.
Ultimately, itâ€™s about two people who not only blame themselves for the death of their son, but also each other, and it all spirals into a startlingly violent conclusion.
Man oâ€™ man, while much of the film is quiet and low key, in typical European film fashion, itâ€™s also a genuine mind bender that if you show to a hundred different people, you will get one hundred different interpretations as to its meaning. Itâ€™s full of religious symbolism and subtext as well as many beautifully haunting images.
I have heard about this film for nearly a year and was finally able to see it on Netflix Instant Play, and I wasnâ€™t disappointed. From the very first scene I was hooked in by this curious little fucker, and it didnâ€™t let me go until its rather baffling final scene. Now this is certainly not a movie for the masses. Itâ€™s slow, ambiguous, sexually explicit, and graphically violent. There is much in here to turn off many. Von Trier has been accused of gratuitously including many elements for simply for cheap shock effect; porno-like close ups of male-female penetration, close ups genital mutilation and other horrific images.
Normally, I would agree, but, as disgusting as those visuals were, in the context of this film, and in context of von Trierâ€™s typical envelope pushing style of film making, I didnâ€™t find them inappropriate. The director dedicated this film to the late Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (â€śSolarisâ€ś, â€śStalkerâ€ś), which makes sense, as this is very reminiscent of his work in terms of tone, mood, and style. It also contains many philosophical and religious undertones not unlike the ones found in Tarkovskyâ€™s films.
Again, this is most certainly not a film for everyone. In fact, I would only really recommend it to the most adventurous, open minded, patient, and strong stomached of film buffs. That narrows the field quite a bit, but I found it to be a challenging and worthwhile experience.
As a final note, if youâ€™re ever hiking through the woods, and all the sudden a dead, mangled fox looks up at you and says, â€śChaos reigns,â€ť turn and get the fuck outta there as fast as your legs will take you!