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Antichrist - at the 47th New York Film Festival
Lars von Trier is a true poet of cinema. He has a specifically painterly eye for composition --formal, surrealistic, and radical--in a natural setting of a lonely cabin, called Eden, hidden deep in the woods. Von Trier is one of the few filmmakers, like Lynch or Polanski, capable of manipulating film to the full extent of its plasticity as a material made up of atmospheric, ethical, intellectual, physical, and visual substance. With "Antichrist," von Trier creates a tense and provocative horror film bound up in terms of death, brutal violence, psycho-therapy, sexual desire, and the fury of Mother Nature. A symphony of simultaneous madness from various species of female animals parallels the same downward mental trajectory of She (Charlotte Gainsbourg), wife to He (Willem Dafoe) after the death of their young son. In the Pacific Northwest, She is working on getting her Doctoral degree, and He is a psychotherapist. In the midst of an intense love-making session, their son climbs from his crib only to fall to his death from a window. Dafoe's He attempts to heal his loving wife's teetering nervous breakdown with caring therapy exercises and goal-oriented games that reveal her fear of staying at their remote cabin, called Eden. His insistence that they go on a retreat to Eden to face her fears and cure her, meets with all sorts of symbolically evil events that surround Gainsbourg as a sexually aggressive wife--she rapes him more than once.
Von Trier's use of color and texture is out of this world. A rugged landscape of gnarled tree roots, distorted physical reality, and a perpetual downfall of water, acorns, and blood. Yes, there's blood and pornography, but more important is the musical inertia of violence of film. With brilliant use of black-and-white photography, von Trier inserts color scenes and flashback sequences to add rhythmic cues that deepen the psychological and physical breakdown of his characters. And Dafoe and Gainsbourg are so loyal and trusting of their director that they're commit to their roles is staggering in its fearlessness. As a showcase of brilliant performances, the film does great justice to Dafoe's and Gainsbourg's abilities to sink their teeth deep into complex characters. "Antichrist" is a demanding film that pushes its dark ideas and exaggerated situations through a dialectic of guided precepts. As with Alfred Hitchcock, Lars von Trier works with a direct cinematic language that allows the audience to trust in his mastery of filmic art and ability to gross them out but not break them. Indeed, Lars von Trier is a master filmmaker. His exploration into the genre of horror is a film far scarier than any Hollywood movie. As with all of von Triers' films, there's some Dogme for the audience to chew on.
Posted by Cole Smithey on
September 23, 2009 in Horror | Permalink
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