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MIFF09 review: ANTICHRIST (dir. Lars Von Trier)

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Review by Brad Nguyen

Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist is a shock to the system even when you know beforehand that the film involves cliterectomies and bloody ejaculations and graphic sex involving Willem Dafoe. But, like his previous films, Antichrist is intellectually stimulating even as it repels you, shifting from cute Lynchian surrealism in the first half to Bataillesque perversions in the second.

The film opens with Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a couple having wild animalistic sex while their child climbs out of his cot onto a window sill and falls to his death. The woman is distraught, crippled by grief and guilt. The man, a therapist, is more controlled in his emotions and undertakes to treat his wife as his patient. Her treatment leads the couple to their holiday home in the woods where evil supernatural forces conspire against the man and the woman’s grief transforms into crazed malevolence.

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Once again Lars Von Trier has sustained attacks from critics calling him a misogynist, but this point is not really sustained by the film, even if Lars Von Trier is admittedly walking a fine line. (Walking a fine line is probably not the right phrase. A woman is credited for being the film’s “misogyny expert” so it’s more like Lars Von Trier taking that fine line and beating it to a pulp.) The main concern of Von Trier in Antichrist is the stupidity of psychology as it attempts to tame the mysteriousness of the human psyche. Hence the dedication to Andrei Tarkovsky in the credits, meant as a knowingly ironic provocation and at the same time with absolute sincerity. As in Solaris, a rational man enters a physical space where the subconscious reigns with a mission to restore order. Willem Dafoe’s character doesn’t understand the grief that consumes his wife but determines to impose on her scientific explanations for her grief, complexes that he prepared earlier.

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The weirdness that follows is not so much inspired by Tarkovsky as by Bunuel and Dali – the cliterectomy that is performed by Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character on herself, seen in full view, recalls the slicing open of an eye in Un chien andolou only it’s much, much more shocking (Much). I suspect the Surrealists would approve of Antichrist.

But how to position the “misogyny” of Antichrist? We learn that the woman has been writing a thesis on “gynocide” in the woods but becomes convinced in the film that the witch hunts and the whole of history is proof of the evil of woman. She subsequently smashes Willem Dafoe’s penis in with a log. The least convincing argument is that Lars Von Trier actually believes women to be evil which leaves two explanations: The first explanation is that the “evil” of the woman is a projection of the man’s anxieties. The second explanation (which I like) is that the woman is audaciously appropriating misogyny. Her proclamations on the evils of women are not so much coherent arguments on the subject so much as a big fuck you to the man attempting to structure the psyche.

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Susan Sarandon battles the Wachowski Brothers for World’s Hottest MILF title.

joseph-gordon-levitt1I like Natalie Portman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt a lot and Rainn Wilson is OK I guess but this ‘indie dramedy’ they’re starring in sounds horrible: In ‘Hesher’, Gordon-Levitt is a loser twenty-something (aren’t we all?) who invades the life of an awkward 13-year-old who lives with a pill-popping father (Wilson) and grandmother. The kid falls in love with a supermarket worker (Portman) who protects him from bullies. In the bin! [THR]

Rian Johnson (Brick) has announced his next film ‘Looper‘, a sci-fi set in a future dystopic society that has suffered a ‘huge financial collapse of some sort’ (look, it’s topical!) and it’s ‘very dark, very violent’ (must be serious!). I’m sceptical about this one. Brick was a high concept teen/noir film that was seriously about nothing. His goal with this one is to ‘tell a story and keep people watching’. What an artist. [/Film] Continue reading

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New trailer for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Snail Trail.

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  • Fairly adorable director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) is video-blogging the making of his new film Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, a slacker/romantic comedy/action film/musical?, based on the comics. Featured: Michael Cera playfighting with a feisty asian chick. Does Charlyne Yi know about this?! The soundtrack sounds potentially interesting: Nigel Godrich, Sloan, Metric, Broken Social Scene.
  • Contemporary horror films are generally boring and moronic. But with Lars von Trier attached (he’s obviously not interested in that Dogme 95 thing anymore), and Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg starring, be prepared for something wacky. Antichrist has a creepy trailer whose scariest moment is a Willem Dafoe sex scene. (Shriek!!) Continue reading

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