Last night we finally watched Antichrist by Lars von Trier. Husband is a big fan of his; I tend not to mind his films; so we decided to give it a go. I’d been warned many, many times, by many different people, that the film was shocking, horrific, awful… etc. Honestly though, it really wasn’t. Perhaps I just watch too many horror movies, but for me, the overall feeling I got from the film was boredom.
It begins with the death of a child while his parents are having sex. The opening scene is in black-and-white slow-motion, and the sex is shown in fairly graphic detail. It seems to work, though. It feels like that bit should be slowed down. Fast forward to the future, after her son’s death, and the woman is lying in a hospital bed. Her husband enters the room, which is no longer monochromatic, and speaks for the first time. At that point, I thought ‘Great. It started off in slow-motion, it’s now changed, and him speaking marks the beginning of the rest of the film.’ How wrong I was.
So much of the film is in slow motion that I thought I’d accidentally pressed some magic button that slows everything to half-time. But no. It was meant to be that way. I’m sure there was some incredibly complex cinematic/artistic reasoning behind it, but the end result was that I was so bored I forgot to try to give the film a chance. It also left far too much time for commentary: “Ooo, look at that tree.” “Well he’s good at the pretty shots, but I’m quite bored.” “Do you want a cup of tea?”… and so on.
Also, silence. A lot of the scenes were silent, which when used well can have you on the edge of your seat, desperate for some noise, hanging onto the every tiny movement of the actors. But when overused, silence just becomes… well, silent. It helps the film to fade into the background and become boring; and when coupled with the veeeerrrryyyyy sllloooowww bits, it just became mildly ridiculous.
Then, of course, there are the famed mutilation scenes; the ones everyone said were horrible, which had people up in arms about the film ever even having been released. But honestly? They weren’t that bad. Yeah, sure, it makes you cringe a bit when she cuts her clitoris and puts a wheel on her husband’s leg, but by that point in the film you’re so damn bored and so disenchanted with the (rather annoying) characters that you’re almost pleased they’re finally looking like they might soon die of pain.
People talked about the film having these amazing themes: religion, sex, feminism, female mutilation, psychiatry… but really, it didn’t feel like the themes were very well put. For one thing, they were both too obvious and not obvious enough. You could see that there was something to do with religion going on from the film’s name, and the fact that it’s mainly set in a garden named Eden, but working out any other religious themes is difficult. Possibly that women are supposed to be in subjection to men in many organised religions? I don’t know. There was one point at which the (very cold, pretty much emotionless) husband is talking to his wife about women, and she is saying how women are controlled by nature, which is evil, thus women by nature are evil. Her husband argues that she is taking the part of the anti-women groups, the ones she has fought so hard against in her thesis (which is entitled ‘Gynocide’, probably in reference to her later self-mutilation). As with the cinematic angle, there are many themes that could be said to run through the film, but all of them are simultaneously overdone and not done enough.
Overall: it wasn’t great. Pretty devoid of any emotion, the characters were difficult if not impossible to empathise with. I didn’t care what happened to either of them. A fast-forward button might have brought the film up to a normal speed, but as it was, it was just quiet, slow and boring. Watch it if you must (it’s probably one of those movies you’ve got to see just so you can say you’ve seen it), but don’t go out of your way.