Saturday, September 26, 2009

ANTICHRIST or PUNK'D AGAIN with Lars Von Trier

So I finally get to see this, after a couple of months of various discussion amongst critics and bloggers... scheduled to open in the U.S. in late October by IFC Films, and possibly shorn of its more outrageous imagery made me take matters into hand - not to mention that it might not make it anywhere near me that doesn't entail an hour's drive.
Let's just say that if you want to see this in the version that the Cannes audience saw, and not wait several months for discs to arrive in stores, opportunity is knocking.

First of all, it's not quite as lurid as the reviews have made it sound, although there's strong stuff here. Second, this is the most exciting thing in the world of film in ages... for some reason, only European directors seem to be able to deliver the goods (only Werner Herzog has stepped up and done TWO films to get people buzzed about film again); David Lynch was about the only recent American director to generate buzz this big.

ANTICHRIST is basically a combination of a Strindberg play with the aesthetics of Bergman and 'torture porn', whipped into frenzy with that touch of Von Trier (equal parts of wonder and contempt). I don't think that he's joking; but I do think that he did have some fun tweaking some of the conventions of the horror film -- and still making it way more disturbing than any recent 'straight horror' film.

Von Trier has trucked with horror before - if you've seen THE KINGDOM, then you know what he's capable of (and that was a miniseries for TV); and I'd even say that his second feature, EPIDEMIC, also fall under that heading (think of ADAPTATION done as a horror film). In both those instances, the horror coexists with a somewhat self-aware attitude - sort of 'What can I get away with?', prime example being the end of THE KINGDOM.

In ANTICHRIST, these moments are littered throughout the film, starting with the title and the opening prologue. But the big moment occurs roughly about an hour into the film, and one's reaction to it is the litmus test. At that point, you either ride it out to the end, or you abandon all hope, ye who have entered, to paraphrase a bit.

To call it 'horror' is rather unfair - it certainly doesn't fit comfortably within the confines of what most consider a horror film, though it does use the tropes of horror pretty well, and does manage to subvert several of them with a smirk (such as Willem Defoe being the Final Girl figure, as well as a whiff of his Jesus from LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST.) It's 'art-horror' which puts it in the same class as another Cannes shocker from earlier, Andrzej Zulawski's POSSESSION.

Get out to see this when you can (or seize on that opportunity knocking). You may like it or absolutely hate it... you won't be bored either way.