Friday, July 19, 2013

Film Review: Antichrist (2009)

Antichrist (Review)
Denmark/2009
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime:No

After the death of their young son, a therapist and his grieving wife retreat to a cabin in the woods. As he attempts to treat her, she becomes more and more violent...

Antichrist is an art house horror film told in chapter form - a prologue, four chapters, and an epilogue. This slow-paced story, drenched with symbolism, focuses on several themes - grief, depression, life, death, nature, good and evil, and so on. Due to the art house nature of the film, I think this film can be perceived differently by its audience; we won't have the same interpretation, which leaves room for (hopefully) healthy discussion, and I like this aspect. Be warned, however, some may find this story extremely offensive - in fact, many have interpreted the film as misogynistic.

The story follows an unnamed couple as they retreat into a cabin in the woods, presumably called Eden. In the cabin, he attempts to find the fears within her, in order to help her conquer it. As they delve deeper, she becomes more and more violent; her frustration seemingly stemming from evil, which she has convinced herself exist within women. The story continues to spiral into a bloody finale, and a thought-provoking epilogue. How it is interpreted - including the epilogue and themes - is completely up to the audience.

As I previously stated, many have interpreted the film as misogynistic, and justifiably so: the title card has a hint of what's to come, and the perceived antagonist, She, is brutal because she is evil. Initially, I found the film to be the opposite: men are the root of all evil, as He is presented as the root of all of Her problems - he's heartless, and cares more about "fixing" her than his dead child, the type of man that cause women to go insane. Then, I thought the film was making a statement on mental illness, as Her problems tend to stem from deep psychological issues, even before the death of their child. Or, maybe, people - male or female - are inherently evil. As you can see, the film is deeply thought-provoking. And, as I said before, I don't think you can really ever be wrong in your personal interpretation.

The film, however, is technically unfocused and poorly balanced. The film is slow-paced, often dreadfully and unnecessarily slow. The runtime is bloated, partly due to the slow pace. The symbolism feels likes it's shoved down your throat, I personally prefer subtle symbolism. The chapter structure feels like an art-house gimmick; in fact, the first chapter is so much longer, by the time it ends, I had forgotten it was being told in this format. These problems continue through the film and make it somewhat ineffective. The violence is incredibly graphic, so is the sex and nudity, and the violence and sex blend to create horrendous sexual violence; this is not a film for those sensitive to violence as it will be overwhelming for those that have not been desensitized. It kind of feels like a wake up call, in case of drowsiness.

Willem Dafoe plays He, and he has great control of his character as he plays it calmly yet with genuine emotion. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays She, a little more over-the-top than her counterpart, but equally impressive. Lars von Trier writing and direction is solid, but could use some polish and better structure. The cinematography is mesmerizing, creating beautiful visuals; Anthony Dod Mantle is the true artist in this film. I also enjoyed the music in the film; along with the superb cinematography, the music helped Antichrist develop an eerie atmosphere.

Overall, Antichrist is an extremely violent, deeply thought-provoking, yet mildly entertaining art house film. It's a film that will stir up conversation, both positive and negative, but ultimately fails to create a deeply effective and entertaining film. Sure, the violence is unforgettable, but the actual story, due to its flaws, won't be stitched into my head. I recommend renting for open-minded fans, avoid if your sensitive to violence.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, full male and female nudity, graphic sex and sexual violence.

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