By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 18, 2009 at 9:34AM
The Monday press conference for Lars von Trier's Antichrist was packed. Right out of the gate, The London Daily Mail's Baz Bamigboye demanded that Trier justify his film. This immediately threw the filmmaker off, and he refused to expound on his thinking. "I don't have to justify," he said, his hand trembling.
"Yes you do," Bamigboye shouted back.
"I cannot justify myself," said Trier. "Because I make films and enjoyed it very much... I feel that you are all my guests, it's not the other way around... I work for myself, and I do this little film that I am now kind of fond of. I don't owe anybody an explanation."
Moderator Henri Behar asked him why he chose this film. "I never have a choice," replied Trier. "It's the hand of God, I'm afraid. And I am the best film director in the world...Other directors may feel the same. Maybe they don't say it."
The actors worked with no preparation, without much talking, they said, guided by Trier. As a result they became "flexible," said Dafoe, who felt that making the film was like a "dream."
"Intense" was Gainsbourg's word. "It was special." But was it enjoyable? "It was--in a weird way."
Asked about the genital self-mutilation, which is shown in close-up, Trier replied, "For me not to show it would be lying. This is a very dark dream about guilt and sex and stuff. It came in naturally."
Trier rewrote Anders Thomas Jensen's initial script (crediting him as a consultant, he said), and made up his own religious mythology. When asked if he lied in his films, Trier replied, "There's a form of honesty in filmmaking that is important to me. I also made films where there are no houses, just a line on the floor. That is lying, yes, but lying in an obvious way."
"I'm not trying to say anything," added Trier, calling Antichrist "a dream film." He doesn't believe in considering the audience when he makes a film. "I've been hit hard by the press before," he said. "I like it, also. It's a good start of discussion."
For the Danes, this is a comeback for Trier. Many were afraid he wouldn't make films anymore, after turning out two films that nobody saw. "Trier was supposed to reinvent cinema," said one Danish critic at the press conference Monday. "This is causing a stir. He hasn't caused a stir since 2003." That film was Dogville, which was followed by its sequel, Mandalay, part of a planned trilogy, and The Boss of It All, which was released by IFC.
Distributor Nordisk Film will open Antichrist in Denmark uncut on 17 sold-out screens May 19 as an arthouse release. "We don't censor anything, we're Danish," said Nordisk's Jan Lehmann. "We've never seen a film like this film. It's a piece of art."
UPDATE: Richard and Mary Corliss defend the movie in Time.