I became an instant fan of Lars von Trier’s when I discovered his early film Europa (1991). Shortly after watching that film, Breaking the Waves (1996) was released and created a frenzy around him and star Emily Watson (making her theatrical film debut), who went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Breaking the Waves is a near-perfect film for me, but as with most of his projects, Trier made headlines with controversial statements like, “I was determined to write a story that was so far-fetched and so full of clichés that no one could take it seriously, but of course the audience liked it. All you have to do is come up with something really stupid, and it will become a great success.”
I’ve learned not to pay too close attention to anything he says about his own films. But when I heard that he was making a Horror film, and that he wrote and directed it while hospitalized for depression, and that it stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, I found myself once again reading interviews with Trier to learn more. I was seeing comments like, “I watched a documentary where the forests were portrayed as a place of great pain and suffering as the different species tried to kill and eat each other. I was fascinated by the contrast between this and the view of nature as a romantic and peaceful place. At the same time that we hang it on our walls over the fireplace or whatever, it represents pure Hell.” I was intrigued.
Antichrist is far from a perfect film. In some ways I wonder if it should ever have left Trier’s brain (which could be said about many of his films). I think Trier’s films are made up of so many incredible and unique parts that sometimes don’t always fit perfectly together, but those parts are so good that it’s usually easily forgiven.
Antichrist is a deeply personal and original vision. It doesn’t always work, and sometimes it’s difficult to know if you’re expected to be horrified or to laugh (chaos reigns…), but because so many of the parts are so astoundingly beautiful and original, I feel it’s definitely worth a viewing. Be warned, though. There is good reason I blocked out most of the picture in the clip I chose.