Seeing Lars von Trier’s newest film, the product of a severe depression (he describes it as “the most important film of my entire career”), is a little like being placed on a mediaeval rack and pulled apart, limb by limb.
Why, you may ask, would I say that? Because the first 20 minutes of Antichrist (shot in the slowest of slo-mo), is a glorious dream of cinematic and carnal poetry set to Handel’s Laschia ch’io pianga—
so nuanced, so beautiful, that you give it up only reluctantly, as you realize the full meaning of the images you’re seeing, and discover what they will lead to. While you don’t want the dream to end, you don’t have any control over your desires; it’s von Trier who’s pulling the strings.
Much has been written about von Trier’s symbol-laden style. But with limited space, and with limited access to his associations, let’s just say that I hope the Academy conjures up a special award for Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg–a thespian equivalent of the Purple Heart–for bravery far, far, beyond the call of duty.
Their nitty gets pretty gritty, and they are good at their work , right up to the very last frame. While Dafoe claims it was a wonderful experience, it can’t all have been fun, and must have been exhausting. Yet, to be honest, there is also a terrible hypnotic power to their descent into the relationship from hell. (Literally.) See it for its place in the von Trier canon, and out of curiosity. But at your own risk. And leave the children at home.