It's the most wonderful time of year! I've been catching up on my all my seasonal favourites, including Rocky Horror Picture Show, Alien, Beetle Juice, Carrie, etc. (check out my personal top ten Halloween flicks posted last year). In the spirit of the season, I ventured to a not-so-local arthouse theatre to take in the highly-discussed Antichrist, freshly opened in limited release.
Lars von Trier's self-proclaimed “masterpiece” has drawn a lot of attention to itself since premiering to an audience of mortified critics at the Cannes film festival in April. The reaction was so vitriolic that “Antichrist” immediately became one of the must-see movies of 2009. However, while a picture with some real daring is usually welcome, I still wouldn't recommend this one.
Despite Mr. von Trier's ballsy claims about himself and his film, a masterpiece it's anything but. Most of it is poorly edited and undisciplined, relying heavily on psychological pretensions that just don't fly and mythological/religious implications that lead nowhere (the Three Beggars theme, for instance, is dis-satisfyingly unresolved). And once the story degenerates to its much-talked-about and grotesque final chapters, you get the impression that Lars is just being excessive for the sake of it. Accusations about the film being misogynistic aren't entirely misplaced either, as Charlotte Gainsbourg's character commits a gruesome self-mutilation because her grief-baked mind believes women by nature to be evil.
Yet for all its amusing and not-so-amusing foibles, Antichrist has a couple of ingredients that are truly brilliant and deserved better than the final product. Specifically, I refer to Charlotte Gainsbourg, who gives the best performance in a bad movie you're likely to see all year, as a mother stricken with anguish and guilt following the loss of her young son in a tragic accident. Said tragic accident is also a high point for the film; An elegiac prologue, beautifully shot in slow-motion black-and-white by recent Oscar winner Anthony Dod Mantle. If only the rest of the movie was as good as that one exceptional sequence.
I'm sure Antichrist will find an audience in arthouses around the country, but I still won't hesitate to say “no Oscar for you!”. It's definitely not up the Academy's alley. I'd have to agree with them on this one.
** out of ****