Antichrist

A grief-stricken couple's marriage degenerates into violence

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FILM REVIEW: Antichrist
Directed by Lars Von Trier
Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Willem Dafoe


***


Lars Von Trier has never been one to shy away from provocation. 1998’s The Idiots followed a group of people pretending to be disabled; he put Bjork through the wringer in 2000’s Dancer In The Dark and abandoned conventional set design altogether with the chalk-drawn town of Dogville (2003). This, perhaps, may well be the most controversial of the lot. A two-hander – fearless performances from Gainsbourg and Dafoe – it’s ostensibly a study of human cruelty, containing graphic depictions of sex, genital mutilation and torture.

Framed as a horror story, it finds a couple (identified only as He and She) retreating to a remote woodland cabin called Eden after the death of their son. Believing She’s overmedicated, He persuades her to abandon her anti-depressants, so better to confront her grief full-on; instead it serves to conjure up some kind of demonic force.

Von Trier’s woodland setting is a palpably creepy setting, evoking everything from Shakespeare’s dark, enchanted forests to The Evil Dead. And, while the battle of wills between He and She occasionally heads over the top, Von Trier achieves what is, presumably, his aim: to leave you feeling deeply uncomfortable.

DAMON WISE

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