A baby stumbles in on his parents having sex and then does exactly what I would do in the same situation and discretely walks out a third story window plummeting to his death. Mom or “she” (CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG) is overcome with grief and the type of guilt that only comes from having an orgasm while your child is splattering against a sidewalk. Dad or “he” (WILLEM DAFOE), possibly the second worst therapist in the world, finds out that the couple’s cabin in the woods is the exact last place in the universe his wife would like to be during this difficult time of mourning and then takes her there. Once in the woods, Mother Nature herself sends not so subtle messages to the couple that they should both drop dead. Finally mom decides to speed up the therapy by hitting the problem at its source by mangling both her and her husband’s naughty zones. The end.

Does anybody know a way I can un-see ANTICHRIST? Is hypnotism a viable option or should I just throw it into the “don’t go there” room in my head alongside that tortuously overplayed news footage of a baby carriage rolling in front of a train and the last season of ROSEANNE? What was I thinking? Take it from me kids, if you are inclined towards depressive thoughts or are currently grieving the loss of a loved one, you need to stay the hell away from this super bad mojo. This is LARS VON TRIER’s take on horror and it’s not “Yikes, there’s a ghost!” horror; it’s “Yikes, I need to go back on Paxil!” horror.

I know what you are thinking, LARS VON TRIER…caveat emptor, but usually the stuff that people find offensively sadistic in his films rolls right off my back because it appeals to my gargantuan persecution/martyr complex. I mean anyone who has worked in retail can relate to DOGVILLE, right? LARS gave me the super whammy this time though, didn’t see it coming. Ugh, I feel like I just sat through WILLIAM STYRON’s BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. When the hell is that new SANDRA BULLOCK movie coming out anyway? I need to see that NOW.

ANTICHRIST may be getting a bunch of flack for its graphic scenes of genital mutilation but whatever, that stuff doesn’t really bother me as long as my junk is still intact. What I have trouble dealing with is footage of a baby bird covered with devouring ants and the oppressive sense that life is a never ending meaningless deathgasm. Don’t think you can shelter yourself from the cruelty of existence within the warmth of a human relationship either, not on LARS’ watch! Love is merely a front for a savage, to the death, wrestling match where both parties gnaw each other raw and silent animosity is the closest thing to a time out. Only bring a date to this movie if you never want to see that person again.

I gotta hand it to this guy, inspired by his own journey into the emotional dark lands, LARS decided to just throw it all up there on the screen completely unpoliced and unapologetic as a form of therapy. It might not all make rational sense but there is an elemental nightmare quality that just can’t be argued with. Critiquing this film is like telling a mentally ill person that they should read CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL. Even the film’s most graceless goofy missteps feel like accurate depictions of full on dementia. Talking animals are hilarious unless you are the Son of Sam. Several times I was brought back to my viewing of MULHOLLAND DRIVE. Do you know the part where the tiny miniature people appear? That part cracked up the entire theater I was in. Meanwhile I was completely mortified and trying to keep my wee little head from exploding.

LARSY is famous for his issues with woman and it’s not hard to see why. Personally I can’t fault a guy who is aware of his baggage and battles his anxieties head on. It’s not pretty but as far as accused misogyny goes I find his work easier to digest than say, WARRANT’s “Cherry Pie” video. In fact, I have to say, the male character, to me, in ANTICHRIST comes off as the real instigator of woe. (Even if you hate this movie, and you probably should, the acting of both DAFOE and GAINSBOURG is fearless and phenomenal.) Sure, she looks like the bad guy ‘cuz she drills a hole in his leg and fastens a millstone to it when he’s unconscious (due to having his cojones whacked by a wooden plank); but hey, he started this ITCHY & SCRATCHY show by trying to suppress her natural feelings and grilling her to find her weaknesses so he could shove her nose in them. I say don’t cry about your bee stings buddy if you’ve spent all your free time throwing rocks at the hive!

Whether ANTICHRIST is pure genius or pure bile probably depends on your own level of familiarity with coo-coo town, the well adjusted need not apply. Whether LARS is trying to beleaguer his audience or is completely oblivious of them I have no idea. There is astonishing beauty to be found here ,but it’s an overall miserable experience. Like depression itself there are many jewels to be found along the path but you will never want to tread this way again. SANDY BULLOCK, slow down, wait up, I miss you!

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Derek Obrien
12 years ago

I found myself somehow considering it both genius and bile, though that may have just been my brain short-circuiting in a way it hadn’t done since I saw Eraserhead at age twelve. Either that, or I’m a coward sitting on the fence in case the Emperor turns out to have no clothes on. I can readily agree that it was an almost unrelentingly grim and nasty viewing experience, on both a visceral and emotional level, an experience alleviated only at parts like the talking animals, though I’m guessing this was unintentional on Von Trier’s part. And I haven’t yet decided whether the actors were incredibly brave or incredibly foolish for accepting their respective roles. Film as therapy? I can appreciate that concept; how many Oscars has the creepy Woody Allen received for doing that? But in my humble opinion Von Trier went way too far with it. The film will be seen by the curious, by those hungry for the sexual and violent content, and by those who get moist over arthouse films that the general public “just won’t get” (Von Trier’s obvious target demographic). Which is a shame. Von Trier could get his message across to a wide audience. He has obvious talent, with the ability to attract generally high-profile stars for his movies. What’s the point of a message understood by only a select few, most of whom will be nodding in nihilistic agreement?

12 years ago

Absolutely fantastic review.  I watched this two times in two days before I could even think about writing something and even then, I struggled.
I think this movie rides a very thin line between pretense and genius.  If you’re predisposed to look at things like this on a literal level, as unfortunately many are, you’re going to hate it.  But as you indicated, there is an astounding level of depth to be found here.
Obviously, you’ve done some research and know that Lars was suffering from extreme depression while writing/filming this.  I think he did a fantastic job of conveying the feelings of depression and despair on film.
Antichrist was unpleasant as hell but I can’t stop thinking about it.

Jeff Allard
12 years ago

Hilarious review, Unk! I have a feeling my take on Antichrist will mirror yours. I know I should watch it just so I can have an opinion on it but it just looks too pretentious, too miserable to force on myself. I’ll get to it at some point, I’m sure, but I’m in no rush.

12 years ago

Deathgasm… that’s a good name for a Metalocalypse episode.