Antichrist (2009) Dir. Lars von Trier
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg
I have a tendency to go through phases of films. I think everyone does this to some extent or another. You get into one genre of music for a certain period, watch a certain genre of film or perhaps even just go nuts for Doritos for a short while. And it was fairly recently that I embarked on a stint of watching Horror films.
Not a genre I would usually go for, as I am not a big fan of horror films as a general rule, however there are a few that stand out.
Although horror films have an excellent history to them, with a few on the standard ‘Films to watch before you die’ lists, my opinion of horror films has gone downhill lately.
I was one of the people that liked The Blair Witch Project, however after it’s success, movies made on hand-held cameras became all the rage, but left something to be desired. Whereas the Blair Witch Project used the hand-held camera element to give a sense of isolation and confusion to the film, allowed you to connect with the characters, modern hand-held films give me little more than a headache due to all the fumbling around and blurry-visuals which I would normally associate with an ITV2 Drama.
Then, after the arrival of Saw in 2004, soon the cinemas were inundated with gore porn, followed quickly by the likes of the Hostel films, and more recently, The Human Centipede.
These are not Horror films. Nor are they very good. Horrors should leave you on edge, tense, frightened, not just simply a little disgusted and disturbed, with the faint taste of sick in the back of your mouth.
So, when I was browsing for horror films to check out and discovered one directed by Lars Von Trier, I was intrigued.
I will say this for the film, it does do something reasonably different. I have had enough of girls in white dresses with long black hair obscuring their face, climbing out of baths. I grow tired of ‘Malevolent ghosts done it’ or ‘some people were nasty to each other and now there is evil energy lingering about the place’. Indian burial grounds, a loud drum beat or a violin stab accompanied by a cat running across the road, the slightly open mirrored bathroom cupboard… All this is getting a bit cliché.
Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg (I don’t think their characters are ever given names) suffer the harrowing experience of their child jumping out of a window and falling to his death.
This causes problems in their marriage, but with Willem Dafoe’s character being a therapist, he is determined to solve whatever mental issues Charlotte Gainsbourg may be having. And she’s got plenty.
She is afraid of nature, amongst other things (although why it never really explained), and when she loses her son this tips her over the brink, manifesting itself in the form of random bouts of violence. And so, they venture out to their cabin in the woods (hardly the most unique setting for a horror film) so that Charlotte Gainsbourg can confront her fears and they can rekindle their marriage.
And then it all goes horribly wrong. She goes mental and then it’s sex and violence galore for the next unpleasant hour and a half.
The characters seem confused, and although there are almost hints of back-story alluded to throughout the film, their behaviour makes little to no sense. You cannot empathise with them on any level, even despite the loss of their child, which was due to their own negligence anyway.
The momentary sorrow you feel for them is overshadowed by an unnecessary slow motion sex scene, which rather detracts from the death of their son, and their behaviour afterwards is erratic at best. Rather than get involved with the characters, you are more watching them through confused, wincing eyes.
To say that this is an uncomfortable watch is an understatement, and Lars Von Trier takes ‘Gore Porn’ to a new level.
There doesn’t seem to be any purpose to any of the film, it’s just unpleasantness for unpleasantness’ sake. Shocking as it may be, most of that is due to the unnecessary amount of on screen sex, violence and gore. Usually a combination of the three.
It seems to me that Lars Von Trier is fascinated by watching people fight and fornicate, in the same way that Tim Burton seems inexplicably fascinated by seeing his wife getting it on with Johnny Depp.
The rest of the story revolves around some sort of prophecy that Charlotte Gainsbourg was researching last time she went into the woods, but none of this is really explained until about half way through the film, and then only partially, moments before something comes up.
“Oh, by the way, there’s a prophecy. You’re going to need to know that in a minute.”
And then a little while later,
“Did I mention that the prophecy says something about this thing? It’s a good thing I told you now, because that’s going to come up in a moment.”
This soon becomes tiresome and predictable, and even with these occasional, rushed explanations, there are moments where something weird might happen with absolutely no reason or consequence.
Most of the film is spent in the usual horror film way of running about and screaming, with a large portion of the rest of it taken up with nauseating and objectionable pornographic torture.
Is Antichrist a something different? Nearly.
Is it nicely shot? Yes.
Does it make any sense? No.
Badly written, confused and unpleasant and purposeless. One compliment I will give it is that it looks very pretty, with some nice cinematography, but that hardly makes up for the ache I was left with in my face from grimacing for two hours.