I had the house to myself last Saturday evening. I decided to break open the backlog of films in my NetFlix instantview queue. That film ended up being Antichrist by Lars von Trier. My expectations were solely based on the short blurb from Netflix and the recommendation based on my enjoyment of Blue Velvet among other films. Out of five stars, I would give this a four.
The narrative is simple. Husband tries to help wife cope with death. Through a steady downward spiral into the psychological and the supernatural, we lose our ground in the reality we started and find ourselves caught in a Hell evoked by William Blake. It is frightening, thrilling, sensual, and disgusting.
The film is somewhere between entertainment and avant-garde, with a predisposition toward the latter. Unfortunately, arrogance, that sometime companion of “fine art” became apparent from the opening with the title card “Lars von Trier”. Immediately, this sense of director ego washed over my appraisal of the film. Truth in art is in the piece and not the creator. Secondarily, the usage of acts, defined by title cards broke the narrative flow. For what purpose? Other than style, I don’t think there is one. These two elements where the negatives, but now on to the positive…
The Prologue is gorgeous. The lighting conjures the gritty noir feel of David Lynch‘s work for Giorgio Armoni from 1992 with the music summoning such delicate moments as the excerpt from the Marriage of Figaro in Frank Durabont’s adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption. Coming from an American-censored background, some of the imagery shocked in all the right ways. It is a beautiful counterpoint to an inescapable impending loss, and catalyst for the film.
Pacing was spot on through the majority of the plot building tension and a desire to uncover the underlying motivations of our characters. The flow eventually became disjointed in the film’s final half hour as character actions pushed extremes for shock-value. I can give this up for style.
I will not ruin the film for you, but one of my favorite moments is the epilogue. I’ve read a few interpretations. Mine is a pilgrimage.