By Jerome Reuter
Ever since it’s release, Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist has sparked a tidal wave of controversy. Von Trier himself is no stranger to this, as he continues to be a popular topic of discussion. He’s been banned from the Cannes film festival for some remarks he made about Hitler, and his boy of work has always provoked the motion picture audience.
Antichrist remains one of the most popular Scandinavian films to be released in recent years. It appeals to a large and diverse crowd, ranging from fans of horror, to experimental film, and even the art house crowd. So, what is it about this film that hits a note with so many? Is this film a work of art, or just a horror film? In my opinion, it contains elements of the horror genre, but goes far beyond that.
I feel this film is Von Trier confessing his mental instabilities. It’s been well documented that he suffers from mental illness, which his films reflect. Antichrist is the first entry in his ‘depression’ trilogy, and it reflects the state of diseased mind. He focuses on a couple that is dealing with the grief of losing their child. We’re taken on a journey into depression, isolation, sadomasochism, and the attempt to recover from a traumatic event. The characters aren’t given names, and are only referred to as ‘he’ and ‘she.’ This implies that events such as this can occur to anyone, and it’s not necessary to give a name to tragedy.
Much of the story takes place in an isolated cabin, residing in a land referred to as Eden. From this point on, Von Trier embarks on a journey of religious symbolism. I feel that’s why the art house crowd has such a strong affinity for this particular film. It’s very easy to notice Von Trier aligning the suffering of a human being to the gospels found in the bible. There are several references to a trinity, and the story itself is told in four chapters, with a prologue & epilogue.
Fans of the horror genre enjoy this film, because of its content. To be quite honest, it’s some of the most visceral imagery you’ll see. It provokes a response from anyone who watches it. However, I feel there’s a reason for this. The trilogy of depression is homage to the great auteurs of the past, and this one is no exception. Nymphomaniac saluted Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of life; Melancholia was a tribute to the visionary style of Ingmar Bergman, and his ability to contrast themes in film. Antichrist is a tribute to Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. Next time you watch it, pay attention to the camerawork, Von Trier successfully emulates his use of the camera.
This films content provokes with purpose. It forced so many to reexamine the work of Tarkovsky. In recent years, many films have emerged with similar camera techniques. I strongly feel this film set that in motion. It forced many to look to the past, and realize that some of the old ways are still the best ways.