During the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, no other movies has arrived more scandalized and controversial than Lars von Trier's new movie called ANTICHRIST. When his movie was first premiered at the festival, it was reportedly that four people were fainted due to the movie's explicit violence. Not only that, many of the audience members who watches it ended up either booing or laughing at the movie. Well, after finally watching the movie, I strongly agrees that ANTICHRIST is indeed everything you have read or heard of from the 2009 Cannes Film Festival -- a difficult movie that is both sickening, misogynistic, provocative and downright offensive. It's also the kind of movie that alienated those conventional viewers and I'm sure even some of the arthouse movie fans will find this a bit too much to watch for. But as Lars von Trier's first true foray into the horror genre, ANTICHRIST is strangely mesmerizing as long as you have an open mind. More on that later.
The movie opens with a glorious slow-motion montage shot beautifully in black-and-white and scored to Georg Friedrich Handel's Lascia ch'io pianga as we follows two nameless couples known only as He (WIllem Dafoe) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) making passionate love at the bathroom before continuing at their room. Little they do realize their toddler son, Nic (Storm Acheche Sahlstrom) climbs out of the crib and ends up falling off from a window to his death on the snowy ground below.
Shattered and ridden with guilt, the married couple are grieving over the death of their toddler son. She ends up collapsing during Nic's funeral and spends the next month in the hospital. When she is finally awakened, she drowned herself nothing but grief. Her husband, who is a therapist, opted to take her out of the hospital to treat her on his own. At first she relies on the psychiatric drugs to ease herself from the pain she's been grieving all this while but her condition gets worse from time to time. Realizing the drugs technique isn't working, he ends up treating her with his exposure therapy method where he questions her about the thing she's afraid the most. She replies, "The woods", which is actually meant to be Eden, a secluded location in the wilderness of Washington State where they own a summer cabin. Sensing that could be the answer to heal her grieving pain, they decide to spend time together at the Eden. However their decision gradually turns out to be an eventual nightmare.
ANTICHRIST was made when Lars von Trier suffered from depression, and it's clearly shown in this movie. His script, which is reportedly being written as part of the exercise to cure his depression, is both well-intentioned and mind-boggling. Unfortunately his movie is terribly oppressive and unfulfilled with strangely lacking of plot and heavy on psychobabble dialogue.
However the movie, as mentioned earlier, is a strangely mesmerizing movie worth checking out for. The first five minutes is both stunning and bewitching enough to keep you occupied (mind you, there is a few seconds of hardcore shot during the lovemaking scene), and some of the provocative images (e.g. the deer which carries a dead fawn stuck halfway out of its womb) which shown in the subsequent length, are just as dreamy. Anthony Dod Mantle's atmospheric cinematography which is shot one style in black-and-white and another style in a rugged, often handheld camerawork in the cabin and throughout the green mountain location (which is filmed in Germany, standing in for Pacific Northwest), is so beautifully framed it leaves you spellbound.
But of all the stunning visuals provided here, ANTICHRIST remains infamous for its now-legendary third act during the last 45 minutes. I must say, it is one of the most sickening scenes I've ever seen in a long while (which also makes me understand the fact about the four people ended up fainting while watching the movie). There are scenes of graphic mutilation (especially the one involving Gainsbourg cutting off her own genitals with a pair of scissors) and the way how certain tools are used in such horrifying ways imaginable. No doubt von Trier has successfully crafted the scene as extremely squeamish as possible I'm sure a lot of viewers who have seen this will find this very repulsive.
The two primary cast, Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, are exceptionally magnificent with their fearless performances. But it is Gainsbourg who really steals the show here and she is particularly captivating the way how she is willing to go as far as bearing her soul and especially her body that I'm sure no other actress would dare to do so. No wonder she is well-deserved for the best actress award at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.