Antichrist opens with a lingering shot, of Willem Dafoe's hand, as he twists a shower's tap. He and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) begin making love under the water. Their young son, Nick, gets out of his crib, and unlocks the baby gate. He and She crash against the washer, as Nick climbs onto His desk; knocking over statues of the three beggars-"Grief," "Pain," and "Despair."
Nick opens the windows, and advances into the night. Nick plummets in silence, three stories, alongside his Teddy-bear and flakes of snow. The sequence is shot in extreme slow-motion and stunningly crisp black and white, a technique the film takes advantage of in the opening prologue and the epilogue to hauntingly beautiful effect.
Next, we follow He and She at their son's funeral. They are surrounded by other people, but all the others are faceless. He fights back tears, but both parents’ are overcome; the camera looses focus, the screen seems to weep with the couple. He is trying to keep pace with his son's coffin, while She beings to linger behind, before collapsing to the ground.
One month later, and He is visiting her in the hospital. She has been loosing track of time, day's turning to weeks. Utterly destroyed by her grief, the doctors are putting her through a varied collection of pills. He, as a professional Therapist; see's grief as something that has to be worked through in more natural means, and pulls her out of the hospitals care despite many objections from his wife.
At home their apartment has very cold architecture t, and is full of far too many reminders of their son Nick. She pours out her bottle of medication, at his request, and plunges immediately into a deep depression. He tells her that it will get much worse before it get's better, that trying to bypass her grief would leave her scarred forever. He helps her through anxiety attacks, but refuses to sleep with her, claiming it would do great harm emotionally. "Never fuck your therapist, no matter how much your therapist may like it."
These therapy sessions are pointing to one thing, a strong obsession with the family's cabin in a place called Eden. The cabin She and Nick visited the last summer of his life; A trip that She requested He not attend. He identifies this as a major source of her grief, but She requests He leave some space at the top. One night She breaks out in a sudden act of self mutilation and He is forced to move there therapy sessions into Eden.
On the way to the cabin He is confronted by the first two of the three beggars, and try's to hold on to his sense of the rational; while trying to help his wife confront her powerful sense of anguish and hopefully overcome it.
He is played by Willem Dafoe, with a superb, almost cold sense of rational. His therapeutic techniques were overseen on set by a professional therapist (Irene Oestrich), and it is quite apparent as Daffoe gives one of the strongest and most realistic performances of his career. He to many viewers may be seen as there avatar in the world of 'Antichrist’, as the rational person trying to comprehend an irrational world.
She is played by Charlotte Gainsbourg in what may be the bravest performance, I have ever seen. She goes from tumultuous lows to unpredictable act's rage. She bears everything, both in physical and emotional extremes. In which She brings to mind the confidence and madness of Jack Torrence in 'the Shining' while moving through the woods naked from the waist down, or masturbating in the roots of a tree. Her performance is emotional, and almost completely devoid of make up; very rarely have professional actresses given as much to a movie as Charlotte Gainsbourg does in Antichrist, She is the great key to Antichrist's success as a work of art and a captivating film.
Lars Von Trier shows great skill with hand-held camera's during the film's many scenes of dialog. These scene's have a palpable sense of energy in which the camera feels like a living character during most of the run time while never loosing the directors sense of control. Von Trier goes on to focus his artistry in many slow motion scenes’ that contain displays of surreal beauty. Antichrist is a bold celebration of film-making.
Musically the score can be broken up into two sections, almost ambient undertones that give the film a real sense of dread. Otherwise the soundtrack consists of two pieces beautiful classical music in the prologue and epilogue scenes. Years ago Kubrick turned a whole generation of film goers on to classical music and it's wonderful to see that after all this time classical can and still is used originally.
Antichrist is a briskly paced, but not afraid to linger for long moments along this superbly photographed, descent into supernatural-madness. It explores the ties between nature and evil; the link between woman's body's and the natural world, and how because of this they are sometimes viewed as manipulated to do evil by nature.
This could very well be a story glorifying violence against women or perhaps violence in general if handled in a different way; it isn't, the violence is very realistic and in most cases women may find it easier to relate to this movie then man. That's not to say the violence isn't dealt out in equal parts, or that it's depicted in a glorifying manner but Von Trier isn't afraid to pull any punches whether it be with the many unflinching scenes of unstimulated sex, self mutilation, or the natural violence in our world. Heavy subject matter that doesn't bother with over explanation comes from a plethora of research in a way that relishes its own mystery. It's a very powerful and personal film, with great performances, and some impressive cinematography. If you're a fan of Horror Movies, Art House Cinema or just intrigued by the controversy then Antichrist is worth a watch and could very well become an important part of your life.
The Three Beggars by William Butler Yeats
"Though to my feathers in the wet,
I have stood here from break of day.
I have not found a thing to eat,
For only rubbish comes my way.
Am I to live on lebeen-lone?'
Muttered the old crane of Gort.
"For all my pains on lebeen-lone?'
King Guaire walked amid his court
The palace-yard and river-side
And there to three old beggars said,
"You that have wandered far and wide
Can ravel out what's in my head.
Do men who least desire get most,
Or get the most who most desire?'
A beggar said, "They get the most
Whom man or devil cannot tire,
And what could make their muscles taut
Unless desire had made them so?'
But Guaire laughed with secret thought,
"If that be true as it seems true,
One of you three is a rich man,
For he shall have a thousand pounds
Who is first asleep, if but he can
Sleep before the third noon sounds."
And thereon, merry as a bird
With his old thoughts, King Guaire went
From river-side and palace-yard
And left them to their argument.
"And if I win,' one beggar said,
'Though I am old I shall persuade
A pretty girl to share my bed';
The second: "I shall learn a trade';
The third: "I'll hurry' to the course
Among the other gentlemen,
And lay it all upon a horse';
The second: "I have thought again:
A farmer has more dignity.'
One to another sighed and cried:
The exorbitant dreams of beggary.
That idleness had borne to pride,
Sang through their teeth from noon to noon;
And when the sccond twilight brought
The frenzy of the beggars' moon
None closed his blood-shot eyes but sought
To keep his fellows from their sleep;
All shouted till their anger grew
And they were whirling in a heap.
They mauled and bit the whole night through;
They mauled and bit till the day shone;
They mauled and bit through all that day
And till another night had gone,
Or if they made a moment's stay
They sat upon their heels to rail,,
And when old Guaire came and stood
Before the three to end this tale,
They were commingling lice and blood
"Time's up,' he cried, and all the three
With blood-shot eyes upon him stared.
"Time's up,' he eried, and all the three
Fell down upon the dust and snored.
`Maybe I shall be lucky yet,
Now they are silent,' said the crane.
`Though to my feathers in the wet
I've stood as I were made of stone
And seen the rubbish run about,
It's certain there are trout somewhere
And maybe I shall take a trout
but I do not seem to care.'
Also of note is the film's dedication.