Before I begin this review I would like to make a small statement. Do not be immediately dismissed by the rating at the bottom of this review, as I sat down with my notes beside me I was genuinely at a loss at how to convey my feelings for this film and put it into words, however I will honestly try my best. Thank you. 2009 has brought the film world some truly extraordinary movies so far, The Wrestler, Let The Right One In, Synecdoche New York, Moon and just previously I saw the absolutely glorious er...Inglourious Basterds (yes I know its annoyingly mis-spelt!) to name but a few, all of the aforementioned films I have loved for differing reasons but Lars von Trier's Antichrist is an entirely different cinematic experience from anything I have witnessed before.
Made up of a Prologue, four chapters (entitled Grief, Pain (Chaos Reigns), Despair (Gynocide) and The Three Beggars), and an Epilogue, Antichrist is about a couple who, after the death of their child, retreat to a cabin in the woods where they encounter strange and terrifying occurrences. These strange occurrences are not demonic demons, or hockey masked murderers or a simpleton farmer in some Scooby-Doo villain costume, but within a deep exploration into the darkest depths of the human mind and, I shall not lie, it did genuinely unsettle me. Consisting of only two cast members, William Defoe (He) and Charlotte Gainsbroug (She), both of whom gave the performances of their lives (for better or worse I am still not sure...). With some mind bending nightmarish sequences, and subtle nuances like the couples surroundings becoming warped or possessed by the fragile state of their own minds, the film was very much a claustrophobic experience, locking you in this confined woodland and not letting you escape until the film's closing moments. That said, surprisingly amongst the misogyny and sexual abuse that is rife throughout the film, von Trier still manages to create some scenes, though deeply creepy, was visually absolutely stunning and made for a beautiful lush escape from the madness going on inside the minds of the disturbed couple.
I have often said the reason I am not the biggest fan of the horror genre is not because I scare easily or squirm at gore, but because I have never had films that outside of those two factors are actually any good in terms of plot or character develop, with the few exceptions such as Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth or the Swedish masterpiece Let The Right One In earlier in the year which proved that just because its scary does not mean it has to sacrifice the story in the process. Antichrist just about does the same, albeit in much more visceral circumstances, this is not so much a folk story gone astray but a camp fire legend that will be speaking of for centuries to come, and each telling a different version of it than the story they heard before them due to how they perceived what they just witnessed. Antichrist ultimately is a movie where a Man and Women pitted themselves against the unspeakable world of Nature, and the moral being that nature will beat you eventually, so hard in fact that it will reduce you to your most primitive savage self and you will never be able to look at yourself the same way ever again because of it.
Out of the forty-one films I have reviewed this year, this was by far the hardest to sum up, not because it was an obscure film to follow, I have seen way more mind bending films than this. The subject matter was something of an awkward point, what these characters performed on each other and themselves was down right unmentionable amongst this blog however like some sick train wreck I was totally drawn to it from the opening beautiful prologue to the devastating climax. Antichrist may well be the best film I have seen all year, but frankly I do not honestly think I could bring myself to watch it again, nor will I personally give it my recommendation. In a completely contradictory conclusion however, I will say this (listen carefully) Lars Von Trier has created a film that is so visually intense featuring a caustic soundtrack and two striking, visceral performances from his two leads and handles subject matters that could send people to jail in some countries, it will shock and disgrace yet may leave you in complete awe and wonder, and because of this it will divide audiences completed down the middle, and this I totally understand. If you have already seen this and think its a big pile of muck I will think no less of you but I encourage everyone to see for themselves, even if what they find is not what they originally sought. If you want to experience one thing in the cinema this year so different from anything else that will be released, Antichrist could well be it.
See this if you liked...
Anything by Lars Von Trier, 2003's Dogville is my personally favourite and another film quite similar in certain subject matters, the French film Irreversible
Antichrist is in most arthouse cinemas now.