This one is not for the squeamish.
Antichrist from Danish director Lars von Trier (Dogville) is an intensely disturbing movie. It starts out as a psychological drama and then two thirds of the way through suddenly shifts into a graphically violent horror movie. It is beautifully shot and maintains an eerie mood throughout. Some of the symbolism is a bit obvious. Did the woods where the cabin was located have to be called Eden? And the scene with the talking fox was unintentionally funny. But this movie has lingered in my subconscious for several days now and that doesn’t happen very often.
It begins with a man and woman having sex while a toddler plays unattended. The little boy falls to his death from an open window. The mother descends into a severe depression. The father, being a therapist, talks his wife into getting off her antidepressants and letting him treat her. They eventually wind up at their cabin in the woods. Slowly more is revealed about the psychological state of the woman. At one point she ominously states, "Nature is Satan's church." When her husband makes a sinister discovery all hell breaks loose and the final 30 minutes is an edge of your seat horror fest.
The acting by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg is superb. They are virtually the only characters in the movie and as such share some incredibly intimate and intense scenes together. The hype around this movie is based specifically on two scenes of extremely graphic genital mutilation. They are two of the most disgusting things I have ever seen in any movie. But Antichrist should not be written off as just a movie intended to shock. It certainly does that, but it also raises questions about the nature of good and evil and shows how extreme depression and psychosis can affect human behavior. In essence it is a thinking man’s horror movie. Antichrist will haunt your imagination for days but it is absolutely not for the squeamish.
Photos © Copyright Zentropa Entertainments (2009)