Antichrist (2009). Directed by Lars von Trier.

Off all my movie picks this year, this one scared me the most. I knew very little about the film going in, other than the fact that it was controversial.

I thought this was a good film, a piece of art that can be interpreted in many different ways. I’m not sure I understand all of vonTrier’s film but then again, neither does its star. In the Q&A following the screening, Willem Dafoe said he has no idea why it is called Antichrist, “only Lars can answer that”.

Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg play a couple that are dealing with the loss of their infant son (none of the characters are given names in the film). Gainsbourg blames herself for her son’s death and is stricken with grief. Dafoe’s character is a psychologist and decides that he will treat his wife and help her get better.

Early on he decides that she must face her deepest fears, which happens to be their cottage in the woods that they’ve named, Eden. This place is nothing like the biblical Eden. Instead, it reminded me of a nightmarish Teddy Bear’s Picnic:

If you go down to the woods today, You’re sure of a big surprise. If you go down to the woods today, You’d better go in disguise.

There are a lot of surprises in the woods and as you can imagine, none of them are good. Nothing can prepare you for some of the graphic violence once the film descends into a state of madness. “Chaos reigns” to quote a dead, talking fox in the film.

At the Ryerson Theatre last night, one member of the audience tossed his cookies on the people in front of him! Parts of this film were very difficult to watch but I never felt that nauseous!

Despite all of the controversy around some of the violence there are moments in Anitchrist that are very captivating and beautifully shot. The opening sequence is shot in extreme slow motion, black and white, and scored to Handel’s Rinaldo, Lascia ch’io pianga,:

Lascia ch’io pianga
mia cruda sorte,
e che sospiri la libertà.
Il duolo infranga queste ritorte
de’ mei martiri sol per pietà.

This translates to:

Leave me to weep
over my cruel fate
and let me sigh for liberty.
May sorrow break
the bonds of my anguish,
if only for pity’s sake.

The music and the images will stay with you for days after watching this film. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because part of the strength of this film is the unknown. The sound design also amplifies the tension and fear that you experience when watching this nightmare. You’ve been warned.


Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

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Posted in 2009 TIFF at 2:08 AM