Monday, February 11, 2013
Antichrist Review, or "And I thought Oldboy ruined scissors for me."
I'm not a fan.
But, he's a hell of a filmmaker. Whether or not you like his films, whether or not you identify with the message he intends, he knows how to get great performances, knows where to point a camera, and will ultimately challenge you.
And that can be the problem from time to time. Antichrist is one of those times. Not an easy film to watch by any stretch, Antichrist is one of those films where it seems the whole point of the film is to repeatedly and without mercy challenge the audience.
Challenge can be a good thing. Not every story told should play it safe. Playing it safe is stale. Playing it safe is what you do when you don't feel creative. We need challenge.
I think where Antichrist got so much of the hate from critics is because it's almost painful to watch. It goes beyond a simple challenge to the preconceptions of the audience; it takes you down such dark paths that you can't believe, in many cases, that the things on screen are actually happening.
To summarize the story, the big inciting incident in the film is the death of Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg's son, which occurs while the two are "being intimate." From the beginning of the film, you are forced to watch something that is painful, heartbreaking, and truly horrifying. But that's the tip of the iceberg because things get crazy from there.
After a stint in the hospital, Gainsbourg is taken by her therapist husband, Dafoe, to their forest property where Dafoe will attempt to help her get over their son's death. And things get disturbing from there.
The first thing of note in this film is that it does look good. I know many people have complained that it's a very droll look, washed out, with little variety, but I think that's kind of the point. You're not watching a movie with bunny rabbits and rainbows. You're watching a movie about the descent into madness by a couple filled with grief and rage. You're watching a movie with oh-so-wonderful scenes of genital mutilation. To be honest, I'm not really surprised by the bleak landscape. And it's necessary. Something I suspect Lars was going for was giving the audience the sensation they were going mad along with the characters.
Acting is also good in this film. Both Dafoe and Gainsbourg bring a lot to the table, and handle themselves well considering just how dark this film is.
The structure of the movie is very interesting. Lars opted to divide the movie into parts, each dealing with a specific emotion or image. With their madness growing throughout the film, you see some pretty crazy things happening, both in terms of actions by the characters, and images presented to them by their surroundings.
For all the technical elements, it's a solid film. But film quality doesn't always translate to film enjoyment. I'm not saying Lars Von Trier is wrong for his choices in this film. In fact, I'll praise him for his boldness. But for me personally... It's too much. It's more than challenging. As I said before, it was downright painful. I seriously thought Oldboy had the most uncomfortable scissors scene ever. But I was wrong. Oh, man, I was wrong.
So, for all of its other qualities, this film is too much, even for a messed up movie goer like myself. Be forewarned audiences, it might be a little more than you can handle.