that's me, after seeing antichrist. just kidding. kind of.
in case you are thinking of seeing it, i will do what i can to keep overt spoilers to a minimum, but i feel obligated to warn you that antichrist
is pretty awful. i want to be clear and honest about that. it's the blair witch project
with slightly higher production values and an overenunciated moral, neither of which improves it. well, no, it is not really the blair witch project
, because the blair witch project
is quite good. ironically, even though blair witch
had no true script, it is the better-written movie of the two. in fact, it is more than a little unfair for me to use the blair witch project
for comparison, as it is in another, superior league entirely. it knows that it is a ghost story, it doesn't try to be anything else, and it succeeds beautifully. antichrist
is lame both as the horror its director insists it be and as the psychological-philosophical-theological prod to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex he seems to want it to be. when it isn't making you sick, it isn't doing much of anything at all. its turning points are clunky and ham-fisted, it lacks momentum, the characters are stereotypes, the dialogue is flat. it does, sadly, have an ominous soundtrack refrain that kicks in whenever something SPOOKY is happening, just in case you weren't picking up on it. some people seem to think there is some innovative camerawork and art direction, but i must have been blinking or rolling my eyes or burying my face in my hands during those sequences, as i found none of it visually captivating. it left me feeling . . . well, damaged, and in no mood to defend lars von trier against any sort of attack, personal or professional, despite the beauty of some of his earlier films. but i do hate me some injustice, and i have to say that i think that reviewers of this movie who are up in arms over von trier's perceived misogyny
are sort of missing the point. i shall defend my thesis forthwith, and in doing so i shall have to pull things from all over the work, including toward the end. just some fair warning there. *ahem*
briefest possible background synopsis: charlotte gainsbourg and willem dafoe are married and have no names. they have a son, a toddler, who does have a name. his name is nic. nic dies while his parents are gettin' it on. hilarity involving poorly animated woodland creatures and what may or may not be dream sequences ensues.
so. gainsbourg's character is a woman who has immersed herself in critical study of the centuries-long tendency to view sexual, unrepressed, free-thinking and -spirited women as wicked, in order to write a dissertation combating said view. but submerge yourself in mud and it's tough not to get dirty. when her own sexuality gets tangled up with a tragic loss, she blames herself and becomes a bit haunted by all those notions of women's innate evil, and she goes a little mad--with grief, with regret, with self-loathing, what have you. she believes the part of her nature that allows her to revel in wild sex is the same part that essentially killed her baby, and this tying-together, which underlies all of the witch hunting from this movie back to the dawn of civilization, makes her feel, you know, witchy. but we aren't meant to agree with her, or to assume her views are von trier's. the tragedy is that her husband, a cognitive-behavioral therapist who at least in his own mind is a paradigm of logic and understanding and clinical knowledge about human grief and madness, does start to think she might be on to something, and follows her right down that path to crazytown. granted, what she puts him through would bring anyone to the brink--and i'm sure that if you've heard anything about this movie, this putting-through is the bit you've heard about--but it's a METAPHOR. they represent the often losing war that civilized intellect wages against primitive nature. i'm not just tossing out pretentious yet baseless analysis here; there is a conversation sequence in the movie that all but reaches out of the screen and slaps you in the face with this point. dafoe, who is too confident in his scholarly understanding of gainsbourg's girly fragility and her mental state and processes to admit that he might not be the best person to treat his own wife (read: arrogant as all get-out and the textbook domineering patriarchal misogynist), allows her to retreat farther and farther into her own mania without ever waking up to what's happening. this makes him the villain, does it not? i think it does. a grieving woman can be, or become, a crazy woman, and a crazy woman will probably get even crazier if you drag her out into the middle of the woods and make her listen to acorns falling on a tin roof day in and day out, but odds are she isn't the devil. the devil doesn't have to be in the vicinity in order for you to catch that woman's crazy if you are also grieving and subject to incessant acorn plink-plink-plinks. if you are a trained mental health professional, you should know this, and if you decide to pretend that you don't know this, you are responsible for any resulting bloodshed. i think you are responsible even if you just forget, as it's your job to remember. it is easy to blame the devil, and probably the devil doesn't mind the finger-pointing, but i bet we all know what's really going down. and von trier knows it, too. the movie, i think, is warning us, in what i felt was a pretty obvious fashion, not to be so facile and primal and stupid, even though at our best we are basically just a gloppy mound of those traits with a schmear of secondary-schooled frosting. who's the REAL antichrist, oooOOOOooooo. or something.
whatever. the movie is dreck, no question, but when von trier says it is not woman-hating dreck, i am inclined to believe him. i wish i could recommend that you see it and decide for yourself, but . . . i can't. i just can't.