Once in a very great while comes a film that’s so challenging, so beautiful, so controversial – “Antichrist” is one of those films. This film goes beyond any NC-17 or “unrated” film I have ever seen. Director Lars von Trier brings us this beautifully terrifying story of a psychiatrist and his wife dealing with the death of their small child while the two make love. The opening scene is the most beautiful opening scene I have ever seen, Dafoe and Gainsbourg are in the shower, looking at each other, about to make love. The entire prologue of the film is shot in black and white and in slow motion, and it is silent aside from the beautiful “Lascia ch’io pianga” from ‘Rinaldo’. The two engage in a heated sexual escapade while their son breaks out of his crib and begins to wander towards the bedroom where his parents are having sex. Snowflakes start to make their way in from an open window. The boy is curious and begins to walk towards the window clutching his teddy bear. In front of the open window is a desk and a chair in front of it. As the boy mounts the chair and climbs on the desk he knocks over three statue solders each with a label on the bottom of them (“Grief”, “Pain”, and “Despair” which are also the three chapters the film is broken down into). The film cuts masterfully back and forth between the boys journey to the window and his parents having sex. As the boy reaches the window he drops his teddy bear out the window. He then watches it and jumps after it. As the boy falls in slow motion, it cuts to a close up o f Gainsbourg’s face as she climaxes, and then to Dafoe’s face as he climaxes. The prologue ends with a wide shot of the boy hitting the snow covered parking lot, followed by his teddy bear.
The first chapter of the film is entitled “Grief” and a haunting title card is displayed to show us the chapter and it’s title. It opens with a close up (in color) of a small casket being pulled on a buggy. It cuts to Gainsbourg walking like a zombie behind it and Dafoe is emotionally wrecked as he staggers behind holding his hand out to his dead son and sobbing silently. This scene made me actually cry. All we can hear is the sound of the wheels from the wagon roll against the brick road. Gainsbourg silently collapses and everyone rushes to her. Before we know it we see her in her hospitable bed and Dafoe walks in. The first lines of dialogue are heard for the first time. She is incredibly ridden with guilt for what happened to their son, and Dafoe is essentially emotionless from this point on. Trying to help his wife cope with the horrible atrocity that happened. Dafoe eventually brings his wife home early, and makes her stop taking her antidepressants. He begins to treat his wife, even though he knows he shouldn’t. He asks her what/where she fears most, and she tells him Eden, the forest where they have a cabin, where She and their son spent a lot of time together.
Once they get to the cabin, horrible, violent, sadistic, masochistic, vicious, harmonious things happen. Essentially a “chaos reigns”. This film is packed so tightly with religious symbolism that it’s nearly impossible to digest in five viewings, let along one. There are three animals, a crow, fox and a deer that are a major part of the film, and a major part of Eden. They are all introduced to us by either killing their offspring, or their offspring dying. The deer is the first one we see. As She takes a nap on their way to the cabin, He wanders off to see the beauty of the woods. He sees a doe, and she’s eating. She looks at him and then starts to run away, as she turns and runs we see a still born calf dangling from her
behind. As He walks backwards in shock, a baby crow falls from it’s nest in a tree into an any pile and begins to get picked at by ants until a hawk swoops down and brings it to a perch to devour it. Dafoe then hears a noise and wanders towards it, he finds a fox laying in the tall grass eating at it’s stomach, pulling out it’s intestines and eating the fetus, it looks at Dafoe and then says, “chaos reigns”.
This films then gets into very gruesome imagery and very hard emotional pain on the viewer. Some scenes will make you look away, others will make you cover your ears. This is a film I don’t understand fully, and it’s as if I don’t want too. The cinematography on this film is absolutely flawless (and the only other film I’ve said that about is “Ed Wood”). von Trier said that he was suffering from depression while shooting this film, and you can certainly tell. This is a story about men and women. About inherent evil and how we perceive things, and how we don’t. This is a film that should be studied frame by frame, and should be studied in college film, psychology, and philosophy classes. This film is important on so many different levels, it’s pure raw art that is very rare anymore.
The acting in this film is beyond perfecting. Gainsbourg won Best Actress at Cannes for it, and she certainly deserved it. Too bad the Academy doesn’t have the brass to even consider nominating her, or any other aspect of the film. Dafoe delivers as usual, but this time it’s different. This actually may be Dafoe’s best performance. And for Lars von Trier, who’s works I continue to study and admire, this is his masterpiece.
This is a film that is so important it must be treasured and kept safe. It’s an unbelievable feat for anyone to stick with this film and watch it. Like I said earlier, it’s beyond any NC-17 film I have ever seen, and if you’re offended easily or have a slightly weak stomach, I wouldn’t recommend it to you – but then again, I would. The epilogue of the film ends in a similar fashion to the opening, in slow motion black and white with ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ from ‘Rinaldo’ playing, but it’s just down right frightening and fucking scary.
Note: I have uploaded the Prologue, it encases a graphic sex scene. View be advised.