So why shouldn’t you see a film that I will label as technically good? When you look as Lars Von Trier’s canon, there are a variety of films designed to make you feel uneasy. His greatest films in my mind (Dogville, Dancer in the Dark, Breaking the Waves) are films that I have no interest in experiencing for a second time. Von Trier has the uncanny ability to delve in to the dark parts of the human psyche and create remarkable works of art from it. With those films, the audience also takes part in his characters’ downward spirals but it is appreciated because these characters are worth caring about and he is a very competent director. Now with Antichrist, he may have crossed the line into pure misery.
Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg play a nameless couple whose child is killed in the opening scene of the film. What follows is a demented journey of grief and pain, which is more frightening than insightful. Their destruction plays like a feature version of Un Chien Andalou equipped with images that are forever scared in my brain. Dafoe and Gainsbourg act through this expertly with unflinching and raw decisions. In fact everything about this film is done expertly. Von Trier experiments and succeeds with his lighting techniques that I’ve never seen done before. The film is shot like a work of art, but more in the vein of Hieronymus Bosch than Monet. (Yes I only know who Bosch is because I read Michael Connelly. Don’t judge me.)
Why I don’t rank Antichrist as highly as the rest of Von Trier’s work? For the art overpowers the characters and the story. Everything felt like a device to put the audience on the same level von Trier is on. I embrace film because of its unique way to tell a story. When storytelling is compromised I tend to lose respect for the filmmaker, which is what has happened to me towards Stanley Kubrick, David Fincher, and David Lynch. (Eat it up film nerds!). The reason people seem to be attracted towards Antichrist is its use of compromise. Much in the same vein as Salo, people comment on seeing this film as an achievement in tolerance. They made it through and were able to blog about it. However this does not compare as effective as Requiem For a Dream or even Cries and Whispers because for me the experience of Antichrist isn’t worth it.