Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Just got finished watching Lars Von Trier's new flick, Antichrist. Starring Willem Dafoe ("He") and Charlotte Gainsbourg ("She"), this is one humdinger of a ride. I can't quite recall the last time I had such an interesting film-going experience.
There are plenty of places online to regurgitate the plot, but I'd prefer not to spoil much of it for anyone who sees it because of my suggestion. I'd rather point to the streamlined structure of the piece. How it leaves one guessing. If taken literally, it's an unblinking meditation on human nature, the evil inside. If taken symbolically, it pretty much dances the same jig.
In this movie, that old time religion ain't so good nor comforting. And if nature is feminine, then, whoa nellie, she's one crazy bitch. And if man or woman is to win any wars, then by god (or by satan), the battle of the sexes is brutal, ugly, and endless, one always waging a covert gynocide against the other.
Mutilation. Castration. Life in all its rich variety. This little motherhumper of a flick goes to the heart of darkness, and then keeps going. The central part of the film's narrative takes place at a wooded retreat the couple refer to as "Eden." And if Eden was paradise, ya follow me, and He and She lost it, then, well, perhaps there never was a paradise in the first place. This could be true for you, me, he, she (or He and She), any of us. "Chaos reigns," as one of the woodland creatures in the movie seems to say. Eve ate the apple. Cain slew Abel. We all just keep on with the keepin' on.
I don't know quite what to make of comparisons when it comes to Antichrist. The feeling I got was one of leaving a work of art or literature experiencing the profoundly tragic (yet without cynicism). Von Trier's little opus is dedicated to Tarkovsky, and that director's film Andrei Rublev aslo invoked this essence I'm thinking around. Also I am reminded of Polanski (the director not the man) at his most clear-headedly down and out, such as Chinatown or The Tenant...and Antichrist itself is a "horror" movie, if any genre need be ascribed to it, such as is The Tenant. And these movies earn the horror mantle more rightfully so than much of the drek that claims the genre. If I were to make a literary comparison, it's akin to what I felt after reading Hubert Selby's Requiem for a Dream or attempting to read The Room (a book so wonderfully difficult I still have yet to read it cover to cover). But, anyway, such as with these other references, Antichrist is the real deal.
Personally, it's nice to see a movie that doesn't pull its punches. Or to see a movie that pretends not to pull its punches, which is a much more Hollywood style racket (much of what has been perceived by critics of this movie as "shock" tactics, I did not perceive as such at all).
Darkness. Nature. Man. Woman. Antichrist is a narrative that guides not to easy answers, but forces tough and serious questions upon the viewer if the viewer cares to watch and then ask questions. If you ask me, I couldn't ask much more of any serious work.