284. Antichrist (Denmark 2009)
Director/Writer: Lars Von Trier
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Willem Dafoe
Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle
Bit part: No other named actors
In one line: an unnamed man and woman try to come to terms with the death of their child
A man and woman's negligence leads to their child's death. The woman falls in and out of consciousness following the boy's funeral. Her psychotherapist husband decides that the treatment she is receiving is unsuitable and decides to treat her himself. He takes her to Eden Forest, a place they had visited a year earlier, and where the woman had written her thesis on gynocide - the practice of gender-selective mass killing. The man seeks a way out of their predicament by using the healing power of nature, but finds that Nature itself is a force for evil and destruction.
Man About the House the Movie it ain't. Von Trier was the prime mover of the Dogme 95 movement. If you're just a casual reader of this site who only looks at it for the soup recipes and the jokes about penises, you might not know about this back-to-basics film movement. Dogme 95 rejected artifice in films - no music, no non-diegetic sounds, no special effects, no titles and films to be shot on tape rather than film.
Von Trier's The Idiots was the first of the Dogme films; it was a film that followed the rigid philosophy of the Dogme signatories. As time went on, Von Trier and the other Dogme directors realised that making all films like this was a bit shit, so gradually bits of music, titles and special effects began to creep into their films.
Antichrist is quite some way away from your average Hollywood film, but it's also quite some way from the purity of the Dogme vision.
In fact, LVT is a bit like those bastards who claim to be vegetarians just to make themselves more interesting or to draw attention to themselves - you know the ones who rake the wedding buffet of all the good 'veggie' stuff and who (used) to take the in-flight vegetarian meal that you (if you were that vegetarian) ordered months ago, just so that they can get served first and also ensuring that you're left with a stale bread roll brought to you from one of Monarch Airlines' elite squadron of fatty air hostesses.
They're the type of people who say: "I'm a vegetarian (even though they've got a whole raw fish in their mouths like Corky the Cat on the front of The Dandy) although I do like the odd bit of chicken. And monkfish. And lamb. And boiled ham. And liver. And pork. And beef. And steak and kidney pies. And roast ox. |And long pig. And cock."
Antichrist is a modern treatise on the destructive powers and effects of grief and guilt and reads a little like an updated Don't Look Now. Dafoe (Jermaine) and Gainsbourg suffer unremittingly throughout the film, but make a better 'fist' of it than Von Trier's original cast choices of Leslie Joseph and 'the young bloke out of My Family and the BT adverts'.
Eden is no Venice. And no Eden. It is a world where nature is the handiwork of the Devil, and images and symbols of death, decomposition and violence fill the woods. Dafoe sees ghastly visions of sick and self-destructive animals, is attacked by blood sucking ticks and a bizarre storm of acorns batter the roof of the couple's living quarters. The much vaunted talking fox tells Dafoe: "Chaos reigns" to further emphasise that he is now living in the kingdom of Satan. The Basil Brush Show it ain't.
"You can't leave the story there, Mr Derek! A-ha-ha-ha! Boom! Boom!"
Dafoe's counselling of Gainsbourg seems to make things worse. Gainsbourg seems to be an advocate of the gynocide she had been investigating (a development which has further encouraged the idea that the film is misogynistic) and starts to take out her feelings of revulsion on Dafoe.
After smashing Dafoe in the testicles with a large chunk of wood (It's no 'My Wife Next Door'), Gainsbourg pulls off the unconscious Dafoe until he ejaculates blood. (It's no 'Open All Hours'.)
Goodison All-Dayer Shame Vol 3
Charlotte Gainsbourg digs up Willem Dafoe from Stanley Park after receiving a garbled text. She later discovers he drank 27 pints and 'some shorts' in Thomas Frost's on Walton Road following a home draw v Birmingham City. "I didn't lose me fuckin' moby!" is Dafoe's hopeful opening gambit - before being smashed in the testicles by a large chunk of wood.
I won't spoil the ending, but it was never going to end up happy, was it?
I'm sure you've all read about the 'snipping off the bean' scene, which is (obviously) horrible, but seems to have been included to shock rather than being genuinely shocking. (I might be wrong here, but I'm still wondering if Granville smashing Arkwright in the testicles would have improved or ruined 'Open All Hours' - "G-g-g-g-Granville! Why were you m-m-m-m-masturbating my unconscious tu-tu-tu-tumescent m-m-m-member?")
Like The Exorcist, Antichrist delivers (an admittedly ambiguous) moral tale, mixing shock tactics with scenes of melancholia, sadness and faith.
Despite its arthouse credentials, it's not in the same league as The Exorcist, but if you want a thoughtful but gruelling meditation on the nature of sin and man's fall from grace, then Antichrist is the film for you.
It's no Moody and Pegg, though.