Reviewed Jan 14, 2012
It’s almost impossible to describe what this film is like, or “about.” It’s like a slow-moving, beautiful, irresistible nightmare. I would describe it as psychological/surreal arty horror.
The movie is divided into four chapters, titled “Grief,” “Pain (Chaos Reigns),” “Despair (Gynocide),” and “The Three Beggars.” It tells the story of this nameless couple who go to a cabin in the woods to cope with their trauma after the accidental death of their child. I kind of see the movie as divided into two parts, and it’s weird because these two parts are so different, in terms of what they give away about what the movie is “about.”
The first part seems very psychological, as if the movie is really about the woman's boyfriend-slash-therapist trying to help her overcome her anxiety and panic attacks. Nothing that happens in the first part isn’t within the realm of reality. Once they move to the cabin, strange things begin to happen, and the movie shifts into an even more surreal, creepy, nightmarish atmosphere. It's still psychological, but it's a different form of such from the first part of the film.
The movie is very vague, ambiguous, and doesn’t have a traditional narrative. It takes on this very mystical and surreal bent in the cabin, and gradually builds in horror. It has nothing to do with a literal Antichrist, except for the sort of archaic, cryptic atmosphere of medievalism where such ideas come from.
What I sort of think it’s about is…primal evil. The kind of evil that the woman (a Lilith-like figure) eventually takes on, which seems both madness and demonicism, and is reflected externally as well as psychically. Deep, dark, obscure evil. Nature and animals mirror it; there are eerie, surreal sequences where a doe with a stillborn fawn hanging partway outside its body, and a self-disemboweling fox appear. These are the signs and harbingers of the bizarre psychological changes occurring within the woman.
The cinematography in Antichrist is absolutely beautiful. It’s so interesting and a breath of fresh air, and even if you’re not that into the subject matter, you should probably check it out just for its visual element. It’s surreal, eerie, haunting, horrific, highly atmospheric, and strangely erotic. It has these lovely scenes of surreal, disturbing beauty, like the scene with the piles of pale limbs and naked bodies entwined with the tree roots depicted in the poster. Willem Dafoe is great in it, and so is Charlotte Gainsbourg, whom I love. Her character is so crazy and emotional in a very intense, visceral way.
This movie is definitely bizarre, and not for the squeamish, because it has quite graphic sex and some gruesome occurrences (the gore is not visually that over-the-top, just the idea of it is kind of squirmy).
A title like “Antichrist” evokes cheesy ’70s horror films like The Omen, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Antichrist is a gem of subtle, surreal horror, and of artistic, intellectual, and creative filmmaking, from the Danish avant-garde director Lars von Trier.