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Antichrist (2009)

When nature turns evil, true terror awaits.

Starring:

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Willem Dafoe

Directed by:

Lars von Trier

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 109 minutes

US Certificate: N/A UK Certificate: 18

Country: Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, Poland, Sweden

I count two of Lars von Trier’s films as favorites when someone makes me create a list of favorite movies—Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark. They’re definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, though—and even I was wary of Antichrist. I read a lot about this one before seeing it, and honestly, I probably went in planning to hate it. About half an hour in, in fact, I did dislike it—the weird “dreary” was all I kept hearing in my mind. Then something clicked into place, and by the end, I was left trying to figure out how I felt.

If you’ve read anything about Antichrist, you may have heard it’s a horror movie. I suppose, in some ways, it could be considered horror, but it’s definitely not of the horror genre in a traditional sense. The film opens to a beautifully shot black and white Prologue that shows us a couple (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) making love as, unbeknownst to them, their toddler son plummets to his death from an upstairs window. After a month of seeing his wife grieving in a hospital, the husband decides that it is not drugs and avoidance she needs, it is to face her grief and fear head on, with his help as a therapist. Left alone to their own ever-darkening minds, however, they discover just how horrific human nature can be.

Like I said, I had read all about this film online, so I was prepared for the graphic sex and shocking violence—and as a horror fan, I wasn’t too concerned. This is NOT a film for the squeamish, and it will make you appreciate your private parts more than you ever thought possible. That being said, it’s not the graphic scenes that have stayed with me; it’s the ideas and the performances. This is a movie that von Trier admitted he made for himself, not for audiences, but after seeing it, instead of finding that arrogant, like I expected I would, I get it. It’s not all artsy and shocking for the sake of itself—Antichrist is a very human story that served, I’m sure, as a catharsis of sorts for the troubled writer/director, but that also works as a complex psychological and religious metaphor that turned out to be a surprisingly cohesive story. To say more plot-wise would be to say too much, but in the performance area, Dafoe and Gainsbourg are amazing. They are the unnamed He and She, the only two characters we ever hear speak (save a fox), and they hoist this heavy, dark, and yes, dreary film that is still worth seeing on their shoulders and carry it alone for almost two hours. This may not be a place you ever want to visit again, but it is haunting, dementedly beautiful, and very, very personal.

It's Got: Stellar performances, great cinematography, a story like no other, horrific mutilation

It Needs: An open mind

Alternatives:

Breaking the Waves, Oldboy, Requiem for a Dream

Summary

Not for the faint of heart, Antichrist isn’t horror, and it’s a lot to take in, but Dafoe and especially Gainsbourg give heart-wrenching performances that deserve to be seen, if you can handle it.

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