Saturday, November 21, 2009

Devil's Advocate: First Impressions of Antichrist

Hey all,

Just returned from seeing Lars von Trier's new film Antichrist.

For those of you who may not be up to speed regarding this flick, it is a disturbing film peppered with very graphic sexual/violent images. It was both panned and praised at Cannes earlier this year. Here is the breakdown from IMDB:

A grieving couple retreats to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse.

That really is the truth of the plot of the film. It is a very simple movie and the cast is made up almost exclusively of a husband and wife: She and He.

Ok, here we go...

The plot is very simple - and so is the theme. Although this is a movie full of symbols and layers it is a very basic fable dealing with the triumph of civilization over nature and reason over chaos. Mythological stories have layers and tangents - as this movie surely does - but - at their core they are simple tales that tell a basic truth.

This movie is full of rough hewn symbols and telling dialog, but there is not that much to it, and the hand wringing over the violence in the third act is also over-hyped. Although you will surely see some unique images in this part of the film it is actually less disturbing than the first and second acts. Remember how scary Jaws was until you saw the shark?

Although it may seem callous or a bit crazy to some viewers, I was actually relieved when the brutality got going. At that point in the film LVT simply leaves us with a schlocky horror film that I no longer had to fear.

At that point, it's just a movie.

This film is gorgeous in many ways and disturbing as well, but it's ultimately very flawed despite its ambitions. A lesser film for LVT without question, but not a failure by any stretch. However, this movie won't break your heart, strain your brain or sicken your stomach. The grief at the center of the film is never really communicated in a moving way. The simple fable at its heart will never withstand over-intellectualizing and he gore is ultimately silly movie tricks that fail to convey any real horror.

Again, they actually break the tension and create more relief than revulsion.

Anyway. See it for yourself and leave a comment or two. My thoughts may seem to be on the negative side, but I absolutely recommend the film. Gainsbourg and Dafoe are relentlessly brave in their roles and the cinematography is the best I've seen this year - outside of the gorgeous black and white in the film Tetro.

Now there is a movie worth talking about.


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Joe Nolan



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