Friday, March 25, 2011

Antichrist: Come On and Feel the Symbolism

Oh, Lars Von Trier. I think most people hear more about his films before seeing them than any other filmmaker's. And people often don't like them. Von Trier is a genius in that he can take a deeply symbolic film and present it as a straight forward movie. Which is part of the problem and genius of them. By subverting our ideas of an experimental film and making it watchable we as an audience are duped in some sense by letting our guard down and engaging more than we might normally

I find his movies surprisingly watchable. I'd held off on watching Anitchrist (2009) because of what I had heard. The explicit sex and deeply intense violence against the female body in particular . It's not that I didn't want to see it, but I like Charlotte Gainsbourg, clit intact. None the less, it felt like a movie that needed to be seen. I needed to have an opinion on it. (you can see from my past entries I felt similarly about Martyrs)

Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg retreat to their country home after their young son dies while they are having sex. In my mind, the country home functions as their Eden with Gainsbourg desperately trying to reconcile her masculinzed sexuality. She attempts to literally desexualize them both therefore reclaiming their innocence. And if you look back to Genesis (as I do everyday (...ok not really)) when Adam and Eve are cast out of Eden that is the beginning of Satan having some kind of presence and influence on Earth which is how I read this film. You can Google "Anitchrist meaning" and come up with endless different interpretations. And similarly to Martrys what you take away from this movie says more about you than the movie. Which can often cause panic and distress in the viewer. It is a rare thing for a film to put us on the spot and ask us to participate in some way.

Much has been made of the depiction of men and women in this film. I can't take offense to this because these characters are not broadly drawn, they are painted with a fine brush. There are too many specific for me to feel that I have to identify with Gainsbourg's character any more than I feel I should identify with Willem Dafoe.

Now, the movie is shocking and graphic. But the genius comes in when you realize most of the violence is in your head. Von Trier, ever the master of the camera, uses multiple trick shots and fast cut-aways to place the violence in your head. Then, when he makes you feel like it's safe to look, he'll show you what he was hinting at for the last hour.

Now, the all important question: is it a Horror movie? Well, sure. Why not. I'm saying that because I like the movie and would like to put it in the horror cannon. But I can't rightfully put it in the horror canon. It uses many tropes though. when the couple cross a bridge to get to the country house well, shoot, it's straight out of Evil Dead. And for one of the few times in the  film I got all warm and fuzzy inside.

To sum up, because I could talk about this movie forever, Antichrist winds up being a reflection of you if you let it. You have to engage and I think us horror fans are in a better position to do it than any other kinds of film lovers because we are used to gore and intense scenes.

Whether you love him or hate him, I have a very clear image of Mr. Von Trier sitting in Denmark doing whatever it is they do in Denmark and laughing his head off at all of us trying to make sense of a movie that was never intended for a collective understanding. .

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