There’s pre-Antichrist and post-Antichrist life, and everything I do from here on out can be considered post-Antichrist. This is – hyperbole aside – the most difficult movie I’ve ever sat through, and I’ve watched both The Life and Death of a Porno Gang and A Serbian Film in the past three months. More than simply hard to watch, though, Antichrist is beautifully shot, and seems to me like the X-rated version of the French New Wave for modern audiences.
Antichrist tells the story of two parents who suffer the loss their young boy. He sneaks out of his bed while the two are making love, and climbs out an open window, falling to his death. What follows is the story of how these two lovers will handle their lives after losing their child.
Lars von Trier opens and closes Antichrist with a black and white prologue and epilogue. Both bookend the film incredibly well. Sure, the opening shots give the film an “artsy” feel, which is sure to turn people off immediately, but as the movie continues, it’s clear that von Trier is not making art for art’s sake, but rather he is exploring the human psyche at its darkest and deepest depths. It’s hard, at times, for the viewer to differentiate between reality, fantasy, and nightmare, which is absolutely intentional. It blurs the lines for the viewer the same as it does for the characters in this study of humans.
Nearly every “rule” of cinema that one learns in a film class is broken, which is entirely reminiscent of the French New Wave. Lars von Trier wants the viewer to be aware of the camera; he zooms in and out erratically, goes into a soft focus for no reason, lets the camera shake from the cameraman moving it too fast, and so on. I felt like I was watching a version of Jean-Luc Godard or Francois Truffaut, but in a much different light.
The acting by Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg is enough to make the film memorable even if I – or some other amateur – were directing. The bravery shown by both actors, from start to finish, is awe-inspiring. These two take the art of acting to a new level, and are breathtakingly realistic.
Antichrist needs to be seen to fully understand the impact it can have on the viewer. It’s hard to watch, disgusting, brutal, beautiful, and breathtaking, often all at the same time.
Lars von Trier fucks your mind raw, and when he finishes, he’ll have you begging to go another round.