A large erect penis. Snowfall drifting through an open window. A man and woman making love in slow-mo, the black-and-white images throbbing to the majesty of Handel’s ‘Rinaldo’. A toddler, curious and unattended to, climbs onto the window ledge. And falls…
Watch the opening of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist and you’ll know whether or not the film is for you. It’s melodramatic (or “momentous” as Von Trier calls the sequence in his dense chat-track), explicit, bleak – and it looks and sounds incredible.
What follows is a violent, harrowing exploration of gender, grief and the power of nature, as the bereaved couple (Willem Dafoe and CharlotteGainsbourg, who won Cannes’ Best Actress for her unflinching turn) pit rational thought against untamed emotion in a foreboding woodland retreat called ‘Eden’.
“Nature is Satan’s church,” she says. It’s a journey to hell for both, taking in talking animals, screaming acorns and genital mutilation.
So is it “foul, revolting trash”, as some critics saw it? Not at all. It’s a bit indulgent, sure, but it also feels like a dream you just can’t shake – opaque, lyrical, disturbing. It’s also, as von Trier admits, a feature-length therapy session for him, inspired by his own depression and informed by his own visions.
It’s all in the extras, which dispel any doubt as to his commitment and integrity.
Curious? Open-minded? Watch the DVD. It’s a great package – and besides, who wouldn’t want to know what all the fuss is about?
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