Cannes: Von Trier's Antichrist is Arthouse Horror

by Anne Thompson
May 18, 2009 9:38 AM
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Antichristposter

Antichrist is a shocker, no question. It's powerful filmmaking. Danish bad boy Lars von Trier set out to make moviegoers gasp. It's unreleasable as is in many countries--insertion shot, bloody hand job, female genital self-mutilation and all.

The filmmaker may be mentally addled (he made the film after a deep depression), but he's got filmmaking chops. He knows how to manipulate an audience. I was enthralled at the start of the film, an extraordinary slow-motion sequence. And the movie does hang together. He knows where he's going. It's just that much like Ken Russell in The Devils, Trier's taking you to horrifying, hallucinatory places where anything can happen. (Hieronymous Bosch comes to mind.) And where most people don't want to go. Accused of misogyny, the film portrays a woman who is man's worst nightmare, the embodiment of their anxiety about women. A dedication to filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky elicited giggles. The movie itself drew boos and a smattering of applause.


Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Ginsbourg, who are strong naturalistic actors with lean, beautiful bodies, start out the movie in sexual bliss, but move on to other more sinister obsessions and power games after the death of their son. They are so out of whack from grieving that they lose touch with reality. The question is how much their feet were on the ground in the first place.

I can't imagine this film finding a North American buyer. UPDATE: Some disagree; they think a micro indie will pick it up and release it unrated, banking on the publicity building curiosity. The filmmaker has indicated to potential distribs that he will make necessary cuts for North America. IFC, which released his last two films, is a potential buyer-- if he makes trims.

David Hudson rounds up the reaction--posted last night.

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More: festivals, Genres, Cannes, Horror

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