Antichrist is split into four chapters including Grief, Pain (Chaos reigns), Despair (Gynocide) and The Three Beggars. Each chapter opens with harrowing artwork by Per Kirkeby. The film centres around a married couple He (Willem Defoe) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) as they struggle to cope with the loss of their son Nic (Storm Archeche Sahlstrøm). Their grief takes them to their cabin as ‘He’ attempts to cure his wife’s paranoid dreams through therapy breaking the cardinal rule against treating family.
A brief warning before I continue, Antichrist is considered by many to be an artistic representation of a parents grief, although not a traditional horror film there are several extremely graphic scenes that to those with a sensitive disposition are certainly horrific. Hence making it my choice for my Jumpscarecut review.
Antichrist definitely ticks the boxes required to be considered an arts film, it opens with a beautifully shot black and white sequence accompanied by a classical score selected by Kristian Eidnes Andersen. It shows the long slow harrowing journey of Nic from his crib to his fall from the second storey living room window to the snowy street below. If witnessing a child’s body bounce from a concrete floor isn’t graphic enough for you maybe viewing Defoe’s erect member penetrating Gainsbourg blissfully unaware of the events transpiring in the next room will be.
Von Trier doesn’t stop there though as he continues to document She’s decent into sadomasochistic madness using the masterfully shot German forests as a backdrop. Gainsbourg won the award for Best Actress at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival for her portrayal of ‘She’. I can’t immediately recall if Mélanie Laurent was nominated for her depiction of Shoshana Dreyfus in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds but I feel she may have been wronged with this decision as Gainsbourg’s efforts often feel forced and at times even robotic, especially in her monologues with Defoe, who on the other hand is brilliant throughout managing to switch seamlessly between portraying the doting husband and father to the concerned therapist.
Gainsbourg does however redeem herself in the darker and more graphic scenes of the film, I mean she looks completely at ease driving a large piece of timber into Defoe’s penis and then masturbating it until it ejaculates a stream of blood, before removing her own clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors. It’s around this point as you may have guessed that the film starts to lose focus, a little too much for me personally, as it flashbacks to She and a previous trip to the cabin with Nic in an attempt to explain the sudden violent outburst by giving us an insight into her research into gynocide or femicide.
This however feels like a huge detour from the main story, plus throwing Defoe conversing with a fox into the mix, you can understand at times why audiences may feel lost.
As mentioned before, Von Triers cinematography is as artistic and beautiful as it gets, at times however this is let down by what can only be described as an inexcusable amount of shaky camera work which can often be distracting. Pair that with an at times confusing storyline and it makes for a very difficult watch. However if you thought the Saw franchise as being childish over gratuitous violence with very little substance but you don’t think you could deal with A Serbian Film (2010), then I’d definitely recommend Antichrist (2009) as it has all the over gratuitous violence one could hope for with a healthy amount of story thrown in for good measure.
Directed by: Lars Von Trier
Starring: Willem Defoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Storm Archeche Sahlstrøm