'Antichrist' by Lars Von Trier

Lars Von Trier is, in my opinion, one of the very best living film-makers, constantly unpredictable - or predictable only in the fact that you know whatever he does, it is guaranteed to piss somebody off. Since 'Breaking the Waves' in 1996 (still my personal favourite), I don't believe Von Trier has made a bad film. 'The Idiots' was a masterpiece assault on the middle class and conventional societal norms, and 'Dancer in the Dark' was musical melodrama pushed to almost pornographic extremes. 'Dogville' and 'Manderlay' were Brechtian attacks on liberal sensibilities (amongst other things), and seemingly, the United States. After the relatively minor effort, comedy 'The Boss of it All', we get to 'Antichrist'.

What to say about this film? It is, at times, almost ludicrously preposterous, to the point where the film tips over into parody - parody of Von Trier's earlier works, in fact. The story is relatively simple and fits comfortably into the realm of myth/archetype that the film is inhabiting. 'She' (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and 'He' (Willem Defoe) are having sex in the shower, complete with close-up penetration shot, whilst their young son plummets to his death out of a window in the next room. This opening prologue is shot in a super glossy, slow motion black and white complete with swirling operatic strings and resembles something out of a Chanel advert; a world away from the gritty, jumpy camera-work one is used to in a Von Trier film and the first hint that this film is going to be a massive 'fuck you' to the arthouse crowd, his critics who decry him as a misogynist, and probably his audience of fans (including me).

The two parents are stricken by grief (obviously)but 'He' is a therapist and uses the opportunity to use his wife as a case study, but rather unwisely consents to her grief-stricken sexual advances. He is a Man, after all...

The action moves to the woods, an area named Eden, which is both appropriate and stupid, where He contiunues his therapy even as Nature begins to conspire against them, horror-movie style, and continues to consent to her increasingly desperate sex acts. Which is not very professional, really. His encounters with the Three Beggars - a deer with a dead fawn hanging from its vagina, a mutilated fox that talks (yes, I know), and a crow - add to the mythic and folkloric aspects of the film, and are at once stunnigly beautiful and completely fucking stupid. She, meanwhile, pontificates about her thesis on 'gynocide' and persecution of women as witches, as being the root of all evil, and worryingly starts to believe in the very ideas she was exploring. Things go from bad to worse, featuring the genital mutilation and general body-horror that i'm sure I don't need to explain.

This is a very beautiful film, its dream-scenes in the woods truly stunning in their lyrical beauty, but it's message - if indeed there is a message - is muddled and confusing. I truly feel that this film, on one level at least, is a vitriolic attack against those who attempt to criticise or pigeon-hole Von Trier's movies; as such he has created an extreme parody of his own style, with its focus on female sacrifice, male domination, extreme sex and violence, and portentous and pretentious moments designed to annoy and inspire in equal amounts. With a talking fox. It can be read as feminist or misogynist, genius or complete mocking idiocy. Which, one feels, is Von Trier's intention.