Lars von Trier's Antichrist brings a new dimension to torture porn in
that it is the first film from that genre with aspirations to artistic
gravitas. As you might guess from that description, it is not going to be
viewed as the feel-good popcorn hit of the year. Depending on whether you
have seen one of the handful of films in history which are grimmer, you
would probably find this to be the most profoundly painful movie-going
experience of your lifetime. As an indication of how divided people are on
this film, IMDb rates it a respectable 7.0, but the French critics at Cannes rated it a perfect 0.0 in their
consensus. That's the lowest score, not the highest.
In a black-and-white prologue which resembles nothing so much as the
morose, self-pitying art film Barney the Drunk made in an episode of The
Simpsons, two people, known only as He and She, make love ferociously
(complete with insertion shot), backed by an operatic aria. In the next
room their toddler somehow makes his way out of his crib and to a window,
where he falls several stories to his death.
The film switches to color.
At the child's funeral, She collapses and spends a month mostly
unconscious in the hospital. When she wakes, She is crippled with grief.
He, being a psychotherapist, sees absolutely no problem in trying to
provide grief counseling for his wife. He first takes away her medicine
and tells her to start dealing with grief with her head clear. They then
spend a significant period of time having gloomy, despairing sex,
whereupon he decides that the next course of treatment is for her to go
with him to an isolated cabin in the woods, the place she most fears, so
she can add terror to her grief, and where they can morbidly obsess over
their grief non-stop 24/7, except when they are having sorrowful sex.
What could possibly go wrong?
As their stay in the cabin begins, they are beset with forbidding omens
that convey the impression nature itself is against them - stillborn
animals, for example, and the acorns falling from a nearby tree like gun
fire on their windows. Instead of cheering up, she simply drops into a
more profound depression.
Who could have guessed?
While searching the cabin for ways to deal with his wife's melancholy, He
finds notes on misogyny, a topic she had been researching, in which her
handwriting becomes more illegible as the pages go on. She, meanwhile, has
now come to embrace misogyny, as justified by her new belief that women
are inherently evil. In her case, at least, she may have a point. He finds
pictures of their baby which indicate that the woman had abused the child.
When he confronts her with the evidence, they end up having sex in the
tool shed, but it turns out that she had just been using the intercourse
as a ruse to gain control over him without his getting suspicious. As he
lies back with his eyes closed, she grabs a nearby block of wood and
crushes his genitals with it, which causes him to pass out in pain, a
block of wood. She then masturbates him until he shoots out a fluid which
is mostly blood, which squirts all over her her shirt and face. She then
pulls down a toolbox, gets out a drill, makes a hole straight through his
calf, bolts an enormous weight to his foot, and discards the tool he would
need to unbolt the millstone.
She leaves. He does wake up and eventually drags himself into a nearby
foxhole, but a bird gives away his location. She finds him and begins to
bury him alive. She gets about half of the job done and takes a break, but
when she comes back she digs him up instead of finishing the job.
Then, in kind of a merry interlude, she does what I think any of us would
do in her stead. She takes a pair of scissors and performs a
clitoridectomy upon herself (shown in explicit-close-up), and curls up on
the floor in agonizing pain. Eventually he figures out where she had
hidden the necessary tool, gets the weight off his leg, and kills her ass
by strangling her with his bare hands. He then ignites his stack of
firewood and tosses her into the flames.
Back to black-and-white for the epilogue
He makes his way from the cabin to the top of a hill, from which he looks
down to see hundreds of faceless women rushing up towards him.
Pretty cheerful stuff, eh kids?
Throughout the entire film, there's no comic relief or any other form
of relief from the tension in their relationship. There are no relaxed or
happy moments, no forms of distraction. In fact, there is no other
character with a line. It's a two-character play on film, and the drama
is an unremitting angst-fest, spiced by torture porn. If that does happen
to be your cup of tea, you'll be impressed. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte
Gainsbourg deliver the necessary courageous performances, and the
cinematography has been guided by Anthony Dod Mantle, the guy who did Slum
Dog Millionaire (Oscar), 28 Days Later, and The Last King of Scotland.
That is major league talent, so the film looks impressive and the acting
The rest is kind of up to you.