Lars von Trier
is a terrible thing. Not being guilty but feeling guilty. It happens in
your head and it's a self-destructive force. It can also be a powerful
motivator, as religion has discovered. Guilt lies at the heart of the
Christian myth, in the original sin. Although Adam, of course, managed
to transfer his guilt by blaming Eve. The minx.
Antichrist Lars von Trier takes us deep inside the heads of two guilty
parties named He (Willem Dafoe, broad-shouldered, deep-chested, just
like Fred Trueman) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg, sinuously lubricious,
just like her mum). Clearly, like Adam and Eve, they are meant in some
way to represent all of us. Also like Adam and Eve He and She are alone.
They do not appear to us as part of a human society. The only other
character is their baby son, whose death triggers their long agony of
fell out the window, you see, while they were in the middle of a
particularly distracting shag. Like Adam and Eve they are guilty of
being sexual beings.
like Adam He seems at first less guilty than She. Because He's a
therapist, a scientist, a rationalist and is able to think through these
things and put them into perspective. And he can help her get beyond her
soppiness, too. By taking her to confront her anxieties where she feels
most anxious, at their country retreat which, as you've by now guessed,
is called Eden. With disastrous consequences.
guilt is externalised in the woods. "Nature is Satan's
church," she tells us and as a woman she's on the side of nature.
So you see where this is leading.
won't spoil it any more as I had my eyes shut for much of the last half
of the film. The manifestations of a guilty conscience make for some
ugly material. But Antichrist is not, on a superficial level, an ugly
film at all. It's a gorgeous film.
the opening prologue. Shot in super slow motion black and white its
beauty estranges tragedy, and estranges the sin, too. Dafoe's nob (or is
it a stuntman's? The debate will rage), the biggest screen nob since
Patrice Leconte's Ridicule, appears like an adult version of those
puzzles in kids comics, where you have to guess what an ordinary
everyday object is from very close up. (What's that...? Oh I see. Ho!)
wrapping you protectively in sheer wonder it also takes you elsewhere,
to other films. It's impossible, unless you somehow haven't seen it, to
not think of Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now during this beginning. The baby
is even called Nic, without a K.
is all aesthetic compensation for the horror of guilt, which does
ultimately burst through the pretty pictures shudderingly, sickeningly,
and you walk out of the cinema on wobbly legs.
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