The viewer most-likely has never have seen a horror film as sexually risqué as Antichrist. Powerful and shocking are the words that first come to mind when the credits finally begin rolling for this film. Antichrist is disturbing in the raw, blatant images it shows without exploiting them or itself for shock value, a tightrope-like, coterminous feat successfully performed by the film’s director Lars von Trier. A pleasant surprise in the film is that Antichrist does not only shock because of it’s sexual/violent content but also because of the beautiful imagery brought to life as images walk off the page and meld with the goings-on in the film.
Charlotte Gainsbourg is as brave an actress in Antichrist as Jennifer Connelly was in Requiem for a Dream and even more so in many instances. Gainsbourg is able to emote real anguish, not artifice, so that the viewer is drawn in by it and feels sorry for what she has lost and is going through. At the same time, the viewer is thankful that they are not going through the same ordeal themselves. The viewer can see the staggering emotional weight of it and is grateful it is on screen and not in their heart.
William Dafoe gives one of his best performances in years in Antichrist. Dafoe puts himself out there, literally, to increase the substance of the film. Antichrist is an inventive and emotional horror film of a different order because of its strong acting, like Funny Games (1997). Because of Antichrist’s strong human element, accentuated by five chapters: Prologue, Chapter One: Grief, Chapter Two: Pain (Chaos Reigns), Chapter Three: Despair (Gynocide), Chapter Four: The Three Beggars, and Epilogue, many viewers may believe that this is not a “horror” movie in the traditional sense as they did with The Sixth Sense. This is both a statement on what mainstream horror movies have come to and what, unfortunately, audiences have been trained to expect from horror movies.
At first it seems as though the five chapters of Antichrist may be related to Kubler-Ross model for The Five Stages of Grief but they are quickly shown to be something far blacker. Antichrist houses some of the most disturbing, erotic, and visually interesting imagery ever found in a horror film outside of Kubrick’s The Shining. I have said previously that Martyrs was the best horror film to come out this year but Antichrist may edge it out in terms of the depth of its human element. In the classic horror realm, Martyrs reigns but Antichrist is the artistic type of horror film that should reign. When the human element is put first and done well in a horror film, it pays off, both for the film and for the audiences that views it. The Mist proved that.
The cinematography in Antichrist (the imagery produced), created by Anthony Dod Mantle, is outstanding. We have all seen cut scenes, black and white images, and slow motion in film before but probably not since the 1st and 2nd kills of James Bond in Casino Royale have they been used as a component of the film and not an accoutremental device. The slow motion in Antichrist becomes part of the intimacy in certain scenes, a participant. It is the same with the nature sequences in Antichrist where rain and acorns are falling from the sky. One could interpret these sequences as sanity slipping away from the on-screen characters or an illustration of the gradually hold “The Beast” has over Antichrist’s protagonists.
As Dafeo’s character, a therapist, endeavors to help his wife through her grief, the viewer is very aware that something ominous is waiting or even watching in the background. As Antichrist progresses, the viewer becomes aware that “The Beast”’s influence has been present in Gainsbourg’s character’s life long before her child, Nic, died. This is shown in two ways: first with Nic’s shoes being put on the wrong feet constantly by his mother in the past and second the appearance of The Three Beggars, who show up in different forms twice in the film and are not what the viewer may expect. Their first appearance requires a watchful eye during Prologue.
The score for Antichrist, utilizing Handel’s Rinaldo, is meant to increase disquiet, to intimidate yet is simplistic, only what is necessary for the film’s scenes.
Lars von Trier’ Antichrist is a serious, emotional, thought-provoking horror film with material that may be too graphic for those that have not read American Psycho and do not dwell in the darkest abyss of drama and horror movies.