Lars von Trier's Antichrist brings a new dimension to torture porn in that it
is the first film from that genre with aspirations to artistic gravitas. As
you might guess from that description, it is not going to be viewed as the
feel-good popcorn hit of the year. Depending on whether you have seen one of
the handful of films in history which are grimmer, you would probably find
this to be the most profoundly painful movie-going experience of your
In a black-and-white prologue which resembles nothing so much as the morose,
self-pitying art film Barney the Drunk made in an episode of The Simpsons, two
people, known only as He and She, make love ferociously (complete with
insertion shot), backed by an operatic aria. In the next room their toddler
somehow makes his way out of his crib and to a window, where he falls several
stories to his death.
The film switches to color.
At the child's funeral, She collapses and spends a month mostly unconscious
in the hospital. When she wakes, She is crippled with grief. He, being a
psychotherapist, sees absolutely no problem in trying to provide grief
counseling for his wife. He first takes away her medicine and tells her to
start dealing with grief with her head clear. They then spend a significant
period of time having gloomy, despairing sex, whereupon he decides that the
next course of treatment is for her to go with him to an isolated cabin in
the woods, the place she most fears, so she can add terror to her grief, and
where they can morbidly obsess over their grief non-stop 24/7, except when
they are having sorrowful sex.
What could possibly go wrong?
As their stay in the cabin begins, they are beset with forbidding omens
that convey the impression nature itself is against them - stillborn animals,
for example, and the acorns falling from a nearby tree like gun fire on their
windows. Instead of cheering up, she simply drops into a more profound
Who could have guessed?
While searching the cabin for ways to deal with his wife's melancholy, He finds
notes on misogyny, a topic she had been researching, in which her handwriting becomes more illegible
as the pages go on. She, meanwhile, has now come to embrace misogyny, as
justified by her new belief that women are inherently evil. In her case, at
least, she may have a point. He finds pictures of their baby which indicate
that the woman had abused the child. When he confronts her with the evidence,
they end up having sex in the tool shed, but it turns out that she had just
been using the intercourse as a ruse to gain control over him without his
getting suspicious. As he lies back with his eyes closed, she grabs a nearby
block of wood and crushes his genitals with it, which causes him to pass out
in pain, a block of wood.
She then masturbates him until he shoots out a fluid which is mostly blood,
which squirts all over her her shirt and
face. She then pulls down a toolbox, gets out a drill, makes a hole straight
through his calf, bolts an enormous weight to his foot, and discards the tool
he would need to unbolt the millstone.
He does wake up and eventually drags himself into a nearby foxhole, but a
bird gives away his location. She finds him and begins to bury him alive. She
gets about half of the job done and takes a break, but when she comes back
she digs him up instead of finishing the job.
Then, in kind of a merry interlude, she does what I think any of us would do
in her stead. She takes a pair of scissors and
performs a clitoridectomy upon herself (shown in explicit-close-up), and curls up on the floor in
agonizing pain. Eventually he figures out where she had hidden the necessary
tool, gets the weight off his leg, and kills her ass by strangling her with
his bare hands. He then ignites his stack of firewood and tosses her into the
Back to black-and-white for the epilogue
He makes his way from the cabin to the top of a hill, from which he looks
down to see hundreds of faceless women rushing up towards him.
Pretty cheerful stuff, eh kids?
Throughout the entire film, there's no comic relief or any other form of
relief from the tension in their relationship. There are no relaxed or happy
moments, no forms of distraction. In fact, there is no other character with a
line. It's a two-character play on film, and the drama is an unremitting
angst-fest, spiced by torture porn. If that does happen to be your cup of tea,
you'll be impressed. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg deliver the
necessary courageous performances, and the cinematography has been guided by
Anthony Dod Mantle, the guy who did Slum Dog Millionaire (Oscar), 28 Days
Later, and The Last King of Scotland. That is major league talent, so the film
looks impressive and the acting is convincing.
The rest is kind of up to you.
As an indication of how divided people are on this film, the french critics
at Cannes rated it a perfect 0.0 in their consensus. That's the lowest score,
not the highest.
(Clips in yesterday's edition. I may add more if and when I can find a
better screener without the giant numbers all over the top half of the
Pretty much everything you can think of - close ups of DaFoe's penis being
masturbated, camera shots up Dafoe's butt, a close up of penetration, a
close-up of Gainsbourg's privates, and shots which dwell on her furious
masturbation. (Exactly which body parts may be provided by doubles? I don't
Bu the way, sorry about those red borders on the thumbnails. I swapped
computers and I haven't finished all the customizing yet.