Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cross And Bothered

Antichrist, Odeon Telford, Tuesday October 6 2009, 8pm.

Lars Von Trier's Antichrist (2009) is an everyday story of love, death, sex, grief, psychotherapy and genital mutilation. Not exactly obvious material for a date movie, then, and if that night's performance was anything to go by not the sort of movie of any kind for about 90% of moviegoers: several walked out, and there was a lot of sighing, snoring, giggling and tutting throughout. Come the closing credits and a dedication to legendary Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky leads one disgruntled punter to chunter 'he should be shot!'. Which was a bit harsh on a poor fellow who's been dead fifteen years!

The film features a therapist (Willem Dafoe) and a writer (Charlotte Gainsbourg) trying to come to terms with their grief when their young son falls out of a window to his death while they have sex against a washing machine. Defoe's character breaks his own professional beliefs by trying to treat his wife himself, leading to the couple confronting nature and their own natures in a secluded retreat in the woods.

(The trailer below contains contentious themes and simulated sex so is NOT WORK SAFE)

Antichrist isn't a conventional horror film, although its' isolated, claustrophobic atmosphere, and focus on the (mental and physical) violence that men and women do to each other and unto themselves, not to mention the supernatural overtones that envelop the second half of the film, ultimately gives it the feel of being one, even though it's a million miles removed from crass contemporary franchises in the medium.

The film is worth sticking with, despite some scenes which seem to have been deliberately rendered boring, some clumsy exposition here and there and occasionally unconvincing effects. This is mainly because at least it's a film that's actually about something, even if its own conclusions seem muddled and potentially offensive (ie. is it a film about misogyny that ultimately becomes mysogynistic?), and also because it's often beautiful to watch, the performances from Dafoe and Gainsbourg match their director for bravery, and the breathtaking audacity of what unspools leave you genuinely uncertain what Von Trier will come up with next. A film, ultimately, that has to be seen to be believed, even though 9 out of 10 of you hepcats will probably prefer the taste of something else entirely.

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