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Antichrist (2009), brutal sexuality meets visual splendor in this provocative, disturbing film

April 21, 2014

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MY CALL: A brutally dark, intensely and weirdly and unnervingly erotic, AMAZING art house film brimming with an admixture of visual splendor and vile imagery. This is easily among the most provocatively messed up movies I’ve ever seen. MOVIES LIKE Antichrist: For relentless sexuality go for Nymphomaniac (2013). 127 Hours(2010) for a sensory adventure focusing on a single actor. For general intensity and random “holy shit” factor try A Serbian Film (2010) or Martyrs(2008). SIDEBAR: There are various edits out there. The truly unedited version has a running time of 108 minutes. The unedited 108 minute version is reviewed here.

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Lars von Trier (Nymphomaniac, Melancholia) sets a powerful mood in this visually stunning film straight from the opera-scored opening slow-motion sequence of a sex scene complete with pornographic penetration in the first 60 seconds. I know, I just mentioned penetration. But just trust me right out of the gates that this shot, however controversial or shocking, fits the scene perfectly like an artistic puzzle piece that has a significant story to tell. Whereas there is something ominous to be feared for sure, the scene is more a splendor to the eyes than a 1990s French noir perfume commercial–you know, the commercials that are so “out there” that you never knew what they were advertizing until they told you at the end. Some call this high art, others pornographic and provocative.

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This film strikes me as a challenge. We only ever see three actors, one of which is the child who dies in the opening sequence. As husband (“He”) and wife (“She”), Willem Dafoe (Nymphomaniac) and Charlotte Gainsbourg (Nymphomaniac, Melancholia, 21 Grams) carry every scene as nameless characters enduring the loss of their child, who died while they were having sex. He is an over-involved psychoanalyst (playing more the role of therapist than husband) attempting to guide her through her grief, which she serially transmutes into sexual fixation. In an effort to force her to properly grieve and face her mounting irrational fears he takes her to a secluded cabin in the woods, where the sexuality, tension and violence escalate…often, in fact, TOGETHER!

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Great acting, great film! As past tragedy begets the tragedy of their present, the Biblical symbolism rains down hard on these actors’ positively fearless journey venturing to dark places most actors wouldn’t dare.

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“Chaos reigns!”

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Strikingly sublime imagery stimulates us as we endure often unsettling profound emotions. The raw visceral nature of their surroundings parallels her ravaged, desperate psyche. The more he tries to deconstruct her mental torment, the more she in turn tries to disarticulate their sexuality.

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Gorgeous cinematography.

This is easily among the most provocatively messed up movies I’ve ever seen. Full frontal nudity, masturbation, sexual penetration, animal birth, violent sex scenes, violence against animals, violence against women, torture and genital mutilation are sprinkled about in this controversial (but far from conventionally exploitative) artistic endeavor. So, while I encourage adventurous cinephiles to accept the challenge of seeing this film to its end, let’s just not make a family night of it and DEFINITELY don’t watch it on a first date.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2014 10:17 am

    It’s a messed-up movie that never really seems to go much of anywhere at all with what it’s trying to say. It is just, once again, von Trier doing weird stuff that maybe only his legion of fans will understand, or even care enough about to dissect. Good review.

    • johnleavengood permalink
      April 21, 2014 4:44 pm

      I read some critical deconstructions of this film tying it to a Biblical Garden of Eden told through an evil nature lens.

  2. April 21, 2014 11:33 pm

    I will agree that this movie is a challenge. Each viewer will haft to make up their own minds on what they thought of it. I have a crush on Charlotte Gainsbourg so I will watch most everything she does, but there were moments I couldn’t look at her

  3. April 24, 2014 6:18 pm

    What a fu**ed up movie this is!

    • johnleavengood permalink
      April 25, 2014 8:33 pm

      I winced a lot. I don’t even wince at the Saw or Hostel movies.

  4. April 25, 2014 3:04 am

    Von Trier often seems to opt for strange and weird for its own sake without taking the story anywhere

    • johnleavengood permalink
      April 25, 2014 8:35 pm

      I’d say he had a clear direction with his extreme symbolism.
      Extreme direction? Yes.
      The right direction? Probably not. LOL

  5. Victor De Leon permalink
    April 27, 2014 12:45 pm

    Have never watched this. Not interested but a friend of mine is always trying to get me to check it out. Not into Lars, I guess. Maybe it’s because I’m a grumpy old man and not as adventurous as I used to be. Good post, though, John.

    • johnleavengood permalink
      April 27, 2014 9:51 pm

      Thanks. Watching this was far from fun, but interesting…it also tested me a bit.

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