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October 23, 2016

Antichrist (2009)
Director: Lars von Trier
Actors: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Willem Dafoe, Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm

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Synopsis: After the tragic death of their young son, a couple (Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe) take to increasingly extreme attempts to expunge their feelings of guilt and grief.

Review: In many ways a companion piece to his later diptych Nymphomaniac, beneath its veneer of seeming provocation (in this case, the striking opening sequence of a couple in nigh-on pornographic coitus while their son crawls to his tragic demise), Lars von Trier’s Antichrist is for the most part a thought-provoking/wry/discursive (take your pick) treatise on how a grieving couple strip away any semblance of the ego and the rational for an increasingly fraught trip into confronting their primal fears.

As ever with von Trier, it’s a strikingly shot film, and his later moving of the action to a forest of “dark fairytale” connotations is an ingenious envisioning of the piece’s central quest to dramatise the couple almost inhabiting their own ‘genre’ of licentiousness (fear, baseness) as a means of conquering it. Just once or twice, von Trier’s borderline silliness threatens to override the intelligence of the rest of his storytelling, but I prefer to dwell on the film’s stronger moments: the double-edged agony of Willem Dafoe’s husband, having to manage his own grief while caring for his stricken wife, and the quite staggering and gory sequences of stillborn deers and disembowelling foxes (symbol of the couple’s own bastardised grief?) (October 2016)

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