Lars von Trier’s latest is a film certain to divide audiences, some no doubt dismissing it as mere exploitational trash. Written during what he describes as a time of bleak despair, this film is a bleak, at times maddening and depressing onslaught. Yet, at its core, it’s a psychological thriller that owes much to Kubrick’s “The Shining”, a similar “failed” attempt at a genre pic. Like Kubrick, von Trier seems incapable of the banal, even when he tries to do a straight ahead exploitation horror flick like “Saw”, he comes up with a thing of artistic beauty, startling images, and deep psychological insight. Like Kubrick, von Trier has failed at making a B movie, and instead has crafted another great addition to his oeuvre.

The opening reel, the so-called “Prologue”, is a stunner – slow motion, black and white footage of a couple making love as tragedy unfolds while they’re preoccupied. This is the most beautiful cinematic moments that he’s captured since “Zentropa”, as if Picasso had all of a sudden dropped cubism or linedrawings for a moment to do a “normal” oil painting, just to show that he could. From this opening we plunge into mourning and despair, hardly themes unique to this von Trier offering. This time, however, there’s an overt creepiness, a sense of horror that builds throughout the film that’s sadistically patient. The middle section of the film does lose its way, as the tension build. Once unleashed, however, this brutalistic, man-versus-mother nature motif comes across as an assault on the senses.

The film’s dialectical oppositions (man/woman, man/nature) conflate through the final reel, where the genre conventions are brought to their logical conclusions, but with a unique style and flourish that’s energizing. Antichrist will certainly split the audience, but for those willing to take the plunge, there are clear aesthetic and narrative rewards to be found.

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