Movie Information

In Brief: Impossible to fault as filmmaking, I believe Lars von Trier's Antichrist is equally impossible to defend on any other level. From its charged (but meaningless) title to its final assault on viewers' sensibilities, it is a repellent work — a nasty film that is nasty for its own sake. Ostensibly an examination of a grieving couple as they descend into mutually destructive madness, the end result is a cross between phony Ingmar Bergman and torture porn, with everything that implies.
Genre: Horror Drama
Director: Lars von Trier
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Rated: NR

I had been vaguely curious to see Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009) ever since it came out, so when World Cinema opted to show it, I was glad of the excuse to watch it. Having watched it, I’m no longer so glad. I do not say that the film isn’t well made. It most certainly is. Von Trier knows what he’s doing with a camera. Some of the imagery in the film is both startlingly beautiful and deeply disturbing. Granted, he’s on shakier ground as a dramatist, since the payoffs in the individual sequences are often obvious five-plus minutes before they happen. This, however, is not why I turned out to be less than delighted to have made the acquaintance of Antichrist.

The truth is that the film is one of the most repellent, ugly, and just plan unpleasant movies of my experience. It will be argued by those—and there are plenty—who admire the film that this is deliberate. OK, I can buy that. I mean it never actually occurred to me that anyone would show Willem Dafoe ejaculating blood (it looks like motor oil, but it’s supposed to be blood) and not realize it was repellent. My question then becomes what the point of all this is. Basically, a couple (Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) grieving over the death of their son go off to the woods and proceed to abuse each other with increasing horror movie ferocity of the kind that’s straight out of the Hostel playbook—perhaps a little nastier. The fact that it’s tarted up to look like ersatz Ingmar Bergman—with a talking fox thrown in—doesn’t actually change the fact that at bottom, von Trier’s movie is essentially arty torture porn.

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Antichrist Friday, March 14, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332,

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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