Ginger Nuts of Horror
I've always watched a fair bit of edgy horror, and that quantity has certainly increased over the last 18 months writing for Film Gutter. However there do remain a few notable gaps in my viewing history – for example, I've yet to watch movies such as Salo, Melancholie Der Engel or Cannibal Holocaust. Gasp, right? Of course those are all matters that I will be rectifying, and today I'll be filling in another one of those notable blanks by watching Lars Von Trier's Antichrist. Von Trier is a director I've long been aware of, and have skirted with a few of his movies in the past, but the one that seems to stand out as having the strongest reputation in terms of pure shock value is his 2009 opus, starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Stellar casting, no doubts, but how does the movie itself stand up?
Our movie follows an unnamed couple, and opens with a gorgeous black and white sequence in which their child falls from a window while they are having (surprisingly graphically presented) sex in their bathroom. The rest of the movie follows their attempts at healing, at reconciliation, which take them down a very dark road indeed. He is a therapist, and so the relationship immediately because stilted as she takes on the role of patient and he adopts the role of healer, trying to assess her actions and thoughts at every turn. Both are powerful performances – the movie would absolutely fail without the fantastic work from Dafoe and Gainsbourg, who are both eminently believable in their respective roles. He eventually manages to pull out of her that she is terrified of visiting their cabin, Eden, where she was last working at her dissertation on gynocide, and he decides that this would be the perfect place to face her emotional demons and truly heal from the loss of her son.
Rest assured, it really doesn't work out too well for either of them, as their respective darknesses combine into a maelstrom of vivid hallucination, dysfunctional sex and ultimately bleak violence and abuse. There are some scenes here that will genuinely stick with me – some of them for pure beauty (Gainsbourg's hypnotic run through the forest is a visually stunning sequence) and some for utter unpleasantness (the female circumcision scene still sends a shiver through me days after watching it). This is a very Von Trier take on a horror film – it's powerful, controversial, challenging in both its execution and its storyline. It never makes any concession to the viewer feeling comfortable – being the first of Von Trier's 'Depression Trilogy' that's hardly surprising – but equally presents much in a stunning light, almost every shot feeling really carefully crafted and put together. Von Trier is an artist, no doubt at all, and dare I say for me there's a hint of Marian Dora-esque style here. It's much more mainstream than the German's work, no doubt, but the strange collusion of darkness and beauty is no doubt there.
Whatever you personally think of Von Trier's work, there's no doubt he's a thinker, someone who does put meticulous care into his movies and very much marches to the beat of his own drum. But what is hard, in a sense, is to truly take the meaning out of this movie. Is it a statement on grief and loss, and the imbalance that it can cause in a relationship? Is it about moving on, seeking closure but failing to achieve it? The mention of gynocide definitely hints at a point about gender equality, misogyny and human relationships. Is there also some comment on mental illness, that the cure can actually be much worse than the condition, letting out feelings resulting in an irreparable destruction?
It could be all of these things, or none of them, depending who you are and how you interpret what you see. And perhaps that's the thing that truly makes Antichrist so great.
RATING: 9.5/10. Brace yourself for a serious journey here. Von Trier is renowned as a master of the bleak and shadowy, and Antichrist might just be his masterpiece of misery. Featuring intense performances from both Defoe and Gainsbourg, a visual style that verges effortlessly from dreamy to nightmarish and a striking emotional story that is bound to keep your riveted to your seat. This is a filmmaker with breathtaking skill and control offering us his take on extreme horror, and while it may not be as shocking in terms of visceral content as some others we have watched there is much in mood and milieu here that will leave you absolutely struck dumb. Well deserving of its revered place as an experimental horror masterpiece.
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Come on in, the water's revolting...
Film Gutter Volume 1 is the full collection of 2015 reviews and interviews from Ginger Nuts of Horror's popular Film Gutter series, looking at some of the most bizarre, grotesque and disturbing horror features ever made. With over 50 movie reviews plus interviews with directors and actors including Tom Six, Dieter Laser, Matthew A Brown Jimmy Weber and Phil Stevens. Film Gutter Volume 1 also takes in a host of exclusive content, including the much-requested 'most disturbing movies' list!
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