Thursday, December 03, 2009

ANTICHRIST

"Chaos reigns"

A gorgeous prologue, in sumptuous very slow motion black and white, showing a couple making passionate love intercut with their child leaving his crib and fallling to his death from an open window. The emotional fallout is understandably severe, and is explored fairly closely in Lars von Trier's latest film, the mysteriously named ANTICHRIST. The film has a much narrower focus than von Trier's other films, amounting basically to a series of therapy sessions between the unnamed He (Willem Dafoe in what might be his best performance that I've seen) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg, admirable in a tough role), the mother and father of the late child. She falls into a deep depression that lands her in an institution, and He, unhappy with the therapy she is getting, takes matters into his own hands (it is established that he is an experienced therapist) and brings her home. He soon decides to take her to their remote cabin in the woods, rather too symbolically named Eden, in order to confront her fears. There's a good deal of talk in what follows, and a good deal of supernatural goings on as well.

It turns out that there is Evil In The Woods. Von Trier seems to be simultaneously channeling the David Lynch of TWIN PEAKS (plenty of Lynchian rumbles and techno humming and oddly threatening trees and nature) and Andrei Tarkovsky (certain shots recall Tarkovsky's THE MIRROR and von Trier dedicates his own film to Tarkovsky's memory before the final credits roll). I can't deny the intelligence of the production, or the skill of the filmmaking and the performances. Moments of transfixing beauty and of real danger are conjured with an ease that Lynch and Tarkovsky would recognize as their own, I think. It isn't fair to dismiss ANTICHRIST as a bunch of acting therapy exercises strung together with some shock moments involving genital mutilation and some CGI talking animals, most memorably a fox that tells He that "Chaos reigns," but I have to say that the point of the film simply eludes me. There's just something missing. ANTICHRIST leaves a lot of questions unanswered, mostly about He's motivations. The biggest question of all being: why does He keep going with this mode of therapy, so completely isolated for so long, long after it should be abundantly clear that his therapy isn't coming close to working? I guess it is fair to assume some dark motive on He's part, but von Trier never gets around to making it at all clear, and such an important element of the film deserves considerably more clarification: it shouldn't be left as completely open as the issue of Rick Deckard's status as human or replicant in BLADE RUNNER.

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