Chances are you either love Lars von Trier or you hate him – and that’s exactly the way he’ll want it.
Whether it’s the emotional cruelty of Breaking The Waves, the manifesto of Dogme ’95 or the clean chalk lines of Dogville, everything he does is designed to provoke. Well he’s really gone and done it this time...
Made to lever himself out of a severe depression, Antichrist is an arthouse horror film, of sorts. Psychological, theological, positively pornographic in its lurid torture scenes (including a DIY female castration), it plays like Strindberg adapted by Eli Roth.
It is, as such, too esoteric to satisfy the gorno crowd, too icky to engage anyone else. Divided into chapters (Grief, Despair, other such nonsense), Antichrist first serves up a preposterous black-and-white prologueshot in super slow-mo: a toddler tumbling to his death while the parents (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, credited as He and She) make beautiful love. Replete with a hardcore penetration shot.
The couple then retreat to a cabin in the woods, where He – a therapist – attacks with psychobabble, and She – a nutjob – retaliates by drilling a hole through his leg. “Chaos reigns,” growls a disembowelled fox, and he’s not far wrong.
Such sarcasm would be mean-spirited were it not for the nagging suspicion that von Trier got there first. OK, so it’s possible that Antichrist is actually this notorious prankster’s most sincere film to date, that it’s a profound, personal meditation on Original Sin and a bold attempt to reclaim the art film. But it’s also possible – nay, probable – that Lars is taking the piss.
Whatever his motive, he wants viewers to be outraged, enraged, anything but disengaged, and to give Antichrist any rating other than one star or five stars would be to thwart his sterling efforts.
So here’s the one star, delivered with affection and yes, a fair amount of anger. It’s exactly what he would have wanted.
Catcalled at Cannes, this thoroughly pretentious offering is more childish and terrible than enfant terrible. The most startling – and boring – film you’ll see this year.