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tn_antichrist(warning: spoilers reign)

On one hand I don’t want to just dismiss this movie outright, because it’s at least unique and it has a bunch of weird shit that might tap into somebody’s nightmares and really creep them out. On the other hand it’s about Willem Dafoe talking gently to Charlotte Gainsbourg and asking her how she feels about things and then every once in a while he sees a deer in the woods and gets scared and then toward the end she bashes his balls with a block of wood and jerks him off until he bleeds and attaches a mill-stone to his leg and then he scurries around naked in the woods and hides in a little burrow like a wounded badger and tries to beat a crow to death but it gets away.

In my opinion I don’t know WIFN director Lars Von Trier was going for with this fuckin thing, or if there even was something specific that he was going for, or if he even is aware that there are people that watch these things and try to get something out of them. I don’t know if there’s a way to ask him that without it being awkward, but if it ever comes up please see what you can find out.

mp_antichristDivided into chapters (with splattery painterly title cards) it starts with an overblown slow-motion prologue set to opera music (IMDB says “‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ from ‘Rinaldo'”) and shot in vivid, high contrast black and white somewhere between the look of SIN CITY and a Calvin Klein Obsession commercial. Dafoe and Gainsbourg (credited as “he” and “she” – oh, for Christ’s sake) are fucking while their toddler climbs out of his crib and falls out the window. Just in case you’re not clear on what exactly is going on here there’s a THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE style insert shot of a penis inserting into a vagina. They climax just as the kid hits the ground and as their laundry finishes.

If you think about it this is the same thing that got the camp counselors into so much trouble in FRIDAY THE 13TH. They were too busy getting it on to watch Jason and that’s why he drowned. At least He and She managed to get their laundry done, they were more productive than the counselors. Still, the result is similar: the mother goes crazy, but unlike Pamela Voorhees this gal doesn’t kill teenagers, and does cut off her own clitoris. I think it’s implied that she was already evil before the baby died, or the baby was evil, or maybe the house is haunted, or nature is evil and real fucked up or what not. It is very possibly related in some way to one of those things, is the vague idea I sort of got out of this one. But I am not very confident in any of those theories to be honest. I am confident there was vaginal penetration, at the very least that was communicated clearly.

The rest of the movie is about their grief and the resentment tragedy brings into their marriage. They go to their vacation home out in some woods, and it’s called Eden. Don’t you see? It’s like the Bible! Isn’t that crazy? You can’t make shit like that up.

Oh, I’m sorry. Reverse that. You can only make shit like that up.

Dafoe is a therapist and decides to treat her as his patient. So alot of the movie is him gently asking her how she feels about different things and to picture herself laying in a field turning green and shit like that. Then most of the rest of it is her complaining about him doing that, and freaking out. Dafoe starts having encounters with various animals, maybe it’s a dream, maybe it’s not, isn’t it so deep that you don’t really know, that just blows your fuckin mind I bet. Also there is talk of chestnuts. Gainsbourg starts remembering things about some book she tried to write a while back, which she describes as a scholarly thesis but appears to actually be some kind of illustrated occult book that she could sell to dungeons and dragons nerds or heavy metal fans. Then she goes out into the woods naked and furiously masturbates (sorry, Serge). There is some implication that the kid either had cloven feet, or mom tried to give him some, or that Dafoe is overly parnoid about the shoes he’s wearing in a photo. Is he the antichrist? Who knows? Who cares? Not me. Not you. Not von Trier.

Hey wait a minute, it’s called ANTICHRIST and it stars the guy from LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. If Dafoe had said no I wonder if he was gonna try to get Jim Caviezel?

Also I wonder what this guy’s deal is with the northwest. DANCER IN THE DARK took place in Washington state, but didn’t even resemble the United States very much. In this one you know from a Seattle address on an envelope that it takes place here. I guess it’s more believable that this would be in Seattle than Bjork and Catherine Deneuve working in a factory here. But still, von Trier. Come up with a new place unless you’re gonna come here and see what it’s actually like.

I’m sure von Trier is probly saying something real fuckin deep about women or the nature of evil or therapy or chestnuts. But for me he failed to get it across or to make it seem interesting enough for me to try to figure it out. I know he’s not new to the arthouse horror game either, but it still kind of felt to me like a guy who thinks he’s above genre thinking he’s making something way better and more meaningful than other horror movies, while actually making a horror movie that’s not scary at all and doesn’t mean a damn thing. I’d hold CANDYMAN up to this any day of the week. Plenty of straight horror movies have way more interesting things to say and still work better as horror because the characters are relatable enough to pull you into their reality. It might not be fair to assume von Trier doesn’t know about those movies, and it’s not like he’s lecturing the audience like fuckin Michael Haneke in FUNNY GAMES. But I just couldn’t shake that feeling that that was approximately the attitude this thing was coming from.

The one thing I’ll remember from this is the spoiler somebody told me about, involving the fox. I’m sure this got huge laughs in theaters where nobody saw it coming, but I saw it on DVD and kept waiting for it to happen. Basically, Dafoe is looking at a fox that’s wounded or dead or something, then suddenly the fox does this:

I mean, is von Trier trying to make us laugh there? It doesn’t seem like it. I remember the talking dog in SUMMER OF SAM got laughs, and that one made sense ’cause everybody knows David Berkowitz claimed he thought a dog gave him orders. But this shit? Come on. It would’ve been hard to pick a cornier phrase and voice. Maybe something about “the doorway to true evil.” Come to think of it this fox could show up at the end of Demon Dave’s CHAOS. That would be great.

I’m not sure if it was worth watching just for the fox, and it was actually funnier how I imagined it when somebody described it to me. He’d only read about it himself, so in his telling the fox had a Peter Lorre voice. And the way I pictured it the fox wasn’t in closeup, he was just pawing through the woods and then he turned to the camera and said it, breaking the fourth wall, a little witty aside, like Ferris Bueller would do.

Aside from the Chaos Reigns Mania sweeping the nation it seems like most of the discussion of ANTICHRIST is of the “people are shocked and outraged!” variety. There are two or three quick nasty parts in the movie, it’s true, but I didn’t find them all that shocking. Maybe I’m desensitized but I think it’s more that the movie just wasn’t working on me so none of it really hurts. You gotta empathize with the characters in order to really feel their pain, but I’d already been groaning and rolling my eyes at all the pretentious ludicrousness for 60-90 minutes by the time the shit went down. It’s kind of the Marilyn Manson factor, by the end of the movie it’s pretty clear Mr. von Trier is trying to be outrageous so unless you’re a real sucker you feel more like patting him on the head and saying “Oh Lars, you little rascal” than gasping in terror.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 19th, 2009 at 1:53 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

129 Responses to “Antichrist”

  1. I know it´s ridiculous but for some reason I find the fox creepy as hell. Anyway, great review as always Vern.

  2. I gotta admit that I hate von Trier. To me he is the stereotypical arthouse director, that we know from sitcoms and stuff like that. Y’know, these people who don’t know shit about filmmaking* and think that everything they do is so deep and artistic, even if it’s just hollow and dumb. One of these directors who make art, just for the sake of showing everybody how smart they are and how dumb their audience and especially the people who criticize their art are. And if they got nothing else to say, they try to be provocative, because that’s the best way to not just get free advertising, but also label their work as art.

    *To be fair: Some of his work is visually impressive enough to prove that he knows what he does. (Which probably makes the invention of Dogma 95 worse.)

  3. Funny you bring up Defoe, I just watched the English Patient for the first time, and him getting his thumbs cut off was one of the only bright spots in that slog. Not exactly a bad movie, I guess, but really, really boring.

    The review reminds me of when Quint did Epidemic in Movie a Day. That was one of the angriest, most pissed off things I’ve read from that guy. Hilarious.

  4. My favorite Von Trier story is that when they were shooting Manderlay John C. Reilly told him he would walk off the movie if they slaughtered a donkey as they had planned to. They slaughtered the thing, he walked off, they cut the donkey death out anyway.

  5. great write up Vern. i tried to watch this and was actually proud of myself for making it 20 minutes in to this craptastic piece of nonsense before turning it off.

  6. Is it my imagination or have the majority of critics been jumping through hoops to avoid actually having to say this movie is shit? It’s as if everyone assumes they don’t get whatever it is von Trier is actually trying to say, so they just give it four stars even though they can’t articulate anything they actually liked about it.

    Thanks for keeping it real Vern.

  7. Vern, pretty much exactly what I was thinking while I was watching this, but you didn’t mention one of my other favorite points of ludicrousness: the deer running around with the dead baby deer hanging out of her cooch, and Dafoe in closeup looking at them with this serious holy shit look on his face that made me laugh and laugh.

    Actually now that I think about it, that scene’s pretty representative of this movie, if Von Trier were the fawn, and the mama deer’s vagina were his own ass.

  8. I can understand your reaction to the film, but I don’t share it. Except about “he” and “she”. That’s why I’m a bit wary about The Road. I saw this in the summer with a couple of friends and we all found it well worth watching (I wont say enjoyable) albeit we didn’t have any more of a clue about WIFN it was about than you, but talking about it and thinking back over some of it was all part of the fun. I think it might have to do with the expectations we all had in advance.

    There are two things I don’t understand about the coverage of the film. The first, is this stuff about people supposedly being revolted and puking up at some of it. Like you, I thought there were a couple of nasty scenes (the post-log wanking certianly made me wince) but the shagging and the clit-slashing really didn’t seem that extreme. The second is the idea that it’s a horror film when it’s clearly not. Maybe I’m wrong, but while it may share a few half-glimpsed associations – remote cabin in the woods, the odd spooky weather effect – it didn’t seem to me like it was meant to be in the same vein as the sort of slasher films you guys like. There’s no sympathetic character to root for, nor is there a real external assailant to fight against. As an aside, I’m not a horror fan. It’s action movies, sci-fi, kung-fu and pretentious foreign rubbish all the way for me. I don’t know if that colours our respective viewings.

    It’s all a psychological mood piece that can be interpreted in all sorts of ways (we all did) and I’d be quite surprised if von Trier himself could genuinely tell you what it’s meant to be about. The two main threads I saw in it were the divergent reactions to grief (his clinical detachment and rationality is as unhealthy as her prolonged hysteria and mania) and the presentation of the fecundity of nature as something implacably evil to be resisted. This stuff all gets muddled up and I think his attempts to force her to confront her fear is really him transferring his fear of that external power which she is actually more accepting of. As for all the stuff about the kid, I certainly couldn’t figure out if we’re meant to believe that happened, if it’s her remembering through the prism of guilt or him being a loon.

    Po-faced nonsense but beautifully shot.

    Dogme 95. Any set of rules like that can be made to sound stupid but strip away all the bullshit and, at the core, all it’s saying is “concentrate on character and drama and don’t give a shit about all that stuff that costs money.” Seems to me like an eminently sensible philosophy. Compare Festen with anything Thomas Vinterberg’s made since and it seems almost prophetic.

    All Von Trier’s films are open to accusations of pretention and vacuous provocation and everyone’s tolerance of that will vary, but I’ve got something out of pretty much every one I’ve seen and I honestly think The Idiots is one of the best films made in the last thirty years. He’s a big-mouthed dick and a supreme self-publicist but, unilke Uwe Boll, his films are always worth a look.

  9. Oh. I laughed at the fox but one the guys I was with seemed to accept it as part of the film.

  10. Eh, I dunno. It’s pretentious, yes, but I think Von Trier at least gives you enough symbols and story threads to play with that you can make an
    honest effort to figure out what the heck he’s talking about. I found it interesting and unique, with great atmosphere (I’m a sucker for that — you guys know how I feel about Lynch, Kiyoshi Kurasawa, etc) and, while not at all scary, it has a great sense of mounting dread and loosening reality, which is disconerting and sticks with you (or at least, me). The ambiguity actually adds to that feeling, especially since there’s enough puzzle pieces there that you get the worrying sense that something bad is happening which you can’t QUITE figure out. If it was pure Lynchian weirdness I don’t think it would be quite as affecting, because you’d just give up trying to make sense of it and enjoy the ride. But here I like I could make out the vague shape of something bad, without ever being able to quite grasp it. The tension produced as you try to figure it out makes things all the more troubling as as it gets weirder and more disturbing and your inclination is to try to figure out what’s going on so you can resolve things.

    The Fox IS silly (that voice makes it sound like a clip from Mortal Kombat!) but in the dreamy, claustrophobic reality of the movie I have to admit it kind of works just because its so overt and weird. The best part, though, is that they cut to a title card right after, so you think you won’t get to see how “He” reacts to this, but then they cut back to Dafoe with a truly inspired WTF face, looking down at the fox. Then he just kind of shrugs and walks off. Kind of bold Von Trier makes it literal enough that the character acknowledges that this is unusual, but still does not address it directly (in fact, all we see is Dafoe looking at the ground — the fox is now silent and out of view. Is it still there? Did he see it at all? Is he just trying to put it out of his mind and ignore how crazy shit has gotten or did he see something else entirely? Or imagine it himself? I think this is the kind of slippery reality which I dug in this thing).

    Anyway, the thing’s a bit of a chore, not scary, and deeply ambiguous, but I’m glad I watched it and if you’re in the mood for a frustrating but unique experience in horror, you might be glad you watched it too. True, I’ll take CANDYMAN over this, but isn’t there room in this world for

  11. i enjoyed this movie and i guess i’m the only one. you can’t deny it had great atmosphere. i guess i didn’t find it as pretentious as the rest of you. but to be fair i’m still holding off on watching it a second time.

  12. so ya, Mr. Subtlety basically described exactly the way i feel while i was writing my smaller, inferior comment. haha.

  13. Mode-7- I would disagree. Von Trier is an incredibly divisive filmmaker, every movie he’s made is either considered a masterpiece or an abomination. Same with this.

  14. The Cosh- It doesn’t have to be a slasher movie to qualify as good horror. What about tense, psychoogically complex like The Shining, The Exorcist, things like that. Movies that have deep themes and messages (as well as complex use of symbols and murky exposition) but that stand out as masterpieces to this day? I appreciate you not being a horror fan, that’s fine, but it should be noted that Von Trier himself has referred to it as a ‘horror’ film, and also to himself as being “The Greatest Filmmaker Alive.” Last I checked, Craig Baxley is still breathing, so take a number jackass.

  15. Hilarious review Vern. Hopefully Dafoe will make up for this with his role in Daybreakers.

  16. Brendan — I think this is a horror film, and a pretty good one at that (or at least, and honest attempt). Von Treir tried to do something a little different with horror and, to my eyes, largely succeeded. I’ve got little use for his Dogme shit, but I don’t think horror fans should necessarily feel insulted by this movie, either. I honestly think Von Treir tried to a movie that scared the shit out of him. The things he’s scared of are a little less universal than being chased by a killer, but I think he was more or less trying for the same things most great horror movies try to do; get under your skin and freak your shit out.

    He’s scared of some unusual things, though, (like Kaufman’s SYNECHDOCHE (sp) recently) so if dreamlike atmosphere, loss of reality, sexuality, and nature don’t scare you, well, that’s pretty much what the movie’s about, so you’re probably not going to like it. Which is nothing to be ashamed of. I can easily understand why this does absolutely nothing for a lot of people, and even why it plays like comedy to lots of people. But if you can adopt Von Treir’s mindset and buy into the strange, tiny world he creates, it’s a pretty interesting and subtly disturbing experience.

  17. I’m scared of sexuality and nature. And i hate movies with excessive gore. So I think i’m going to skip this one

  18. Subtlety I was more responding to the other guy who seemed to be defending the movie on the basis that it wasn’t a horror movie so Vern shouldn’t compare it to them. I haven’t seen Antichrist so I am in no position to judge, but I did see Synechdoche, and that was a movie that made me crawl out of my skin. If my life ever starts to resemble Caden’s remind me to jump off a cliff onto a stack of dynamite.

  19. God I hate Lars Von Trier

    People here in the UK seem to see him as some kind of auteur but every time I hear he has a new film out it’s more and more depressing

    I’m like, let me guess- his new film features a woman being humiliated and probably sexually assaulted?

    Oh wonderful, how fucking artistic!

    But anyway that talking dog in Son of Sam was awesome, I’d like to see a Fantastic Mr Fox style film with that dog, this fox and I dunno, maybe one of the skeletons from Clash of the Titans as a group of housemates who form a band and become a worldwide smash

    Make it happen, Hollywood!!

  20. Brendan, point taken that horror films aren’t confined to solely one style. I suppose you could see it in the context of things like Blair Witch and Texas Chainsaw Massacre which create a really unique and disturbing atmosphere.

    I wasn’t really trying to defend it on the basis that it wasn’t a horror film. It just seemed to me that Vern’s review was approaching the film as a horror film with a von Trier angle which, to me, would create certain expectations about what was and wasn’t going to happen. Especially in the someone who is so much a fan of the genre. It’s entirely possible that it’s just how I’ve read it, I know that Vern (and I assume most of the commentators) can watch and enjoy a whole variety of films in different ways. I didn’t approach it that way and I liked it, that’s all.

  21. Coosh- Totally valid man, and you’re the one in the know here, you saw the movie. Just wanted to be sure everyone’s on the same page.

  22. Hey Vern, I don’t want to argue with your opinion of Antichrist there bud but if you are at all willing to give von Trier another go I suggest checking out the very non-pretentious “The Five Obstructions”

  23. Christian Brimo — actually, there’s maybe, MAYBE 30 seconds of gore in the whole thing, and only one real money shot (which lasts maybe 2 seconds). If you think you’d be into it otherwise, I suggest you give it a chance. You’ll know when it’s coming (pun!) and you can just close your eyes for a second or two. Though the gore is unusual enough that it has people freaking out about it, it’s an incredibly minor part of the movie. At first I kind of thought it a shame that he had included it at all, since it seems to have completely dominated all discussion of the movie, pushing out any real questions about the movie’s meaning; but ultimately I guess its integral to the symbolism of the movie and its key themes, as well as adding a visceral layer to the otherwise mostly conceptual horror. So it’s probably just as well that it’s in there.

    For what it’s worth, I also think charges of misogyny completely misread the film’s intent — I actually read the plot as (in part) commentary on the internalization and destructive power OF misogyny.

  24. Vern: it’s probably not necessary to feel too bad for Serge Gainsbourg. After all, this is a guy who wrote and recorded a song called “Lemon Incest” with Charlotte when she was 13 years old.

    Mr. Subtlety: Did you see THE BOSS OF IT ALL? I thought that one was pretty good, if slight, but even if it was awful I think it was worth seeing just for the “Automavision” experiment. Whatever his flaws, I’m glad someone is out there trying this stuff out.

    DANCER IN THE DARK was a tough one for me. I honestly think there was something sadistic about that film, despite some moments of real beauty.

  25. I watched DANCER IN THE DARK with my mom, and somehow we both found it completely joyous. And kind of hilarious, in that it was so obviously (seemingly, to us, at least) a cinematic exercise in main-character torment. As in, “what the hell could happen next?!?!”

    Mom told sis to rent it. Sis called back apoplectic, outraged anyone would foist such anguish upon her.

    I guess it boils down to whether you empathize with character or creator.

    Watched ANTICHRIST the other night on on demand. Loved it. Then frustration set in. There’s SO FUCKING MUCH to talk about in this film. And if not for ONE SHOT I could recommend it to most of them.

    Sorry, mom. We’d have a great, juicy discussion ahead of us.

    But I ain’t watching ANTICHRIST with my damn mother.

    (Got my wife watch the prologue. She was quite intrigued and offered to watch it sometime provided I told her when to pull the covers over her face. Apparently this action keeps the monsters at bay.)

  26. @ I’m scared of sexuality and nature. And i hate movies with excessive gore. So I think i’m going to skip this one

    I don’t know Christian. It sounds like you might be this film’s target audience.

  27. Alphonse G.: I think there are moments in DANCER IN THE DARK where Bjork gets a facial expression that seems to redeem the torture that von Trier has inflicted on the character. I wonder if another actor could have humanized Selma the way Bjork did. I consider that a significant accomplishment.

    I also think that the way the film is so committed in places to drabness is quite remarkable. At the end of the day, I think von Trier, in his own tormented way, is most significant for his technical curiosity, not his themes or characters.

  28. Dancer in The Dark is a great movie and I will never watch it again as long as I live. At least not while there are sharp objects and poison in the house.

    That has to be, hands down, the most depressing movie ever.

  29. Not to change the subject or anything but Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is GREAT.

  30. You go Vern, man. What a terrible little film this was.

  31. Gwai Lo: Ebert certainly liked it. I’m kind of hoping that Vern does a double feature of reviews for both films.

  32. Vern mate, you’re bang on with these reviews of art house films. Bronson was exactly right. A less chubby, more batshit crazy Chopper. Keep it up!

  33. Horror moves in mysterious ways …

    I saw a prescreening of Antichrist and was completely freaked out byt the whole thing. I was a physical and emotional wreck for a week afterwards. Von Trier was sitting in the back of the screening room smirking.

    I like, Vern, how you’re able to see through all the arthouse pretensions, but that movie hit me, for some reasons, on all concievable levels.

    The gore was one thing, but the implications of her thesis gave me the creeps. Women are often victims in horror movies and are mistreated and exploited for some reason. We live in a patriarchal society and for centuries women have been tortured and killed because they were considered a threat to men, ande they were deemed “witches” and “harlots” etc. But “She” seems to reach the conclusion with her thesis that women are inherently evil and sort of had it coming.
    Maybe von Trier has created a new subgenre? Academic horror. Her thesis complicates all the themes, and turns everything upside down. Chaos reigns indeed.

    And yes, von Trier is pretentious, but he also has a sense of humour, and i believe he is well aware of how absurd the fox is.

  34. Mr Subtlety

    I take your point about the film being about the destructive power of misogyny and you’re certainly not alone in believing that.

    The problem I have with Von Trier is that every film features a woman being brutalised, raped, humiliated, treated like a whore etc and I guess you could argue that he’s trying to show how society mistreats women but I think my problem is the glee he seems to take in it.

    I mean people are always banging on about what a prankster he is and how his films are all tongue in cheek – yeah fine OK
    But then to include such unpleasant scenes, linger on them and then be like “hey but actually she’s the hero because she survived it/went out like a martyr and this is a serious point I’m making now” is a goddamn liberty and frankly fucking juvenile
    If this guy really thinks he’s being a feminist by showing women as passive victims then he’s even more of a dumbass than I thought

    Plus I hate his snotty little attitude to America – Oh I’ll make films set there but I won’t go there because I hate them – he’s a twat is basically what I’m saying

  35. Oh, you poor things…
    It always amuses me, that people are dissapointed with all the pointless remakes, Hollywood mindless stupid action films, the lack of original ideas, but when they see something truly original, great and never done before, they say: “Man, this sucks, it’s so stupid, the director doesn’t even know what he wanted to say!”

    I suggest that you think this way: “Well I didn’t understand this film, I may be stupid. Ah, fuck this, let’s watch some Twilight!” This way you are honest at least to yourself, and you don’t pretend that you’re more intelligent than you really are. That’s respectful to me.

    “Antichrist” is a film that’s somewhat boring, cause nothing happens really. But after I watched it, it kinda stayed with me. And it made me very uncomfortable inside. When I started thinking what the hell does all of this mean – I found that I’m not smart enough to operate with meanings and subliminal themes of this damn flick. But this film devastated me real good, it has great atmosphere and a vast layers of meanings and symbolism.
    I’ve read 50-100 reviews and analyses by now, and even psychologists trying to explain it fail miserably and manage to discuss only the surface of this film, so don’t be upset, guys)

  36. ““Antichrist” is a film that’s somewhat boring, cause nothing happens”

    This sentence totally null and voids all that came before, and after, it.

    Everyone else is stupid and pretentious for not “getting it”, but you are allowed to completely dismiss the entire plot in one sentence and further go onto to explain that you are “not smart enough to operate with meanings and subliminal themes of this damn flick”

    Bravo Sir.

  37. Vern, how would you compare this film to Martyrs? For me this movie was way scarier than Martyrs despite the fact that Martyrs is probably the better movie.

  38. I just found a qoute about this movie at the imdb parental guide (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0870984/parentalguide), which is in my eyes not just pretty amusing, but also makes me wonder how true this is:

    “This is not “torture porn” or an horror movie; every violent and sexual moment albeit strong; have a reason and significance.”

  39. God, I hated this fucking film.

  40. Dieselboy,

    Well I felt that I’m coming off as some kind of a smart-ass, so I had to simplify something, that’s kinda funny to me.

    And I totally do not understand your post, if it’s “hate-mail” – then it’s okay, otherwise what, I can’t comment on a movie without retelling the entire plot in several sentences?

    By today’s standards, with all quick storytelling, crazy cuts and Bourne-style editing, I can totally say that films like “Antichrist”, “Shining”, “2001”, “Benjamin Button”, “Mirror” are somewhat boring – and that would be true. Though I love them all.

    Finally, all I’m telling is – You can’t judge things you don’t completely understand. You can say that “Surrogates” is crap or “American Ninja 3” is crap – cause these films are simple and accessible like an old hooker on a cold winter night. But when you’re saying that “Antichrist” or “Shining” are shite and you can’t explain what these films are really about – then people will think you’re a fool.

    But thank you for your thoughtful comment, sir.

  41. I don’t know, I just think it’s really suspicious when a movie leaves nothing but a big question mark over the audiences head and thousands of critics and even psychologists fail to find out and/or analyze the meaning of it. Just because a filmmaker is labelled (maybe even by himself?) as an artist, it doesn’t mean his films HAVE a meaning! Pretty much everybody can stitch together a bunch of weird and cryptic scenes, with symbols and maybe even explicit violence, but that doesn’t necessarily make his work deep and thoughtful or even gives it a meaning.

  42. andrew-film: I don’t think that anyone here who had a negative response to ANTICHRIST, even those who articulated their response with phrases like “it sucks”, are pretending that their response is anything more than their own reaction. And in numerous cases this reaction is based on recent screenings when the experience of the film is still at play on our nerves and emotions. There is nothing invalid about communicating these less tangible responses to a film.

    None of us are on the committee that gets to decide where history will situate Mr. von Trier’s films. This is a message board. We are sharing our responses to various films and engaging in discussion. On a good day this sharing process allows some of us to think about a movie from a perspective we might not have previously considered. It’s probably not especially fruitful if you read our comments as if they’re finished chapters in our academic dissertations. The “understanding” that you feel our responses lack is something that happens long after we’ve used Vern’s board to vent and argue and re-cast the film with Muppets.

  43. Lawrence,

    I’m curious to hear you elaborate on ANTICHRIST being scarier but MARTYRS being better. What did you think made it the better film overall? Better story? Better directing? Better acting? Was it a more consistent or satisfying experience? I enjoyed both films very much, but personally think ANTICHRIST was scarier, better crafted and better acted.

    Vern and everyone else,

    ANTICHRIST is probably my personal favorite horror movie to come out so far this year (although I am dying to see HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) and one of my favorite movies of the year in general. Obviously many other folks disagree, and that’s cool, I think many of you have made fair and interesting points. But the one thing that confounds me are the complaints about it being too pretentious or too arty. I don’t get the anti “arthouse” sentiments here. Are we so strict in our definition of “horror” that we will not allow for anything that isn’t pulpy genre fare? Is Von Trier not supposed to apply his own sensibility to the genre when he works in it? Why is it automatically bad and “pretentious” that he takes his themes and ideas seriously and wants to explore them in this genre? Maybe you feel that his themes were uninteresting or that he did a poor job exploring them, fine, I’d like to hear that argument. But some of the comments here make it sound like Von Trier is a pretentious, hacky failure for even making the attempt.

    The other thing I don’t get: complaints about not understanding the film’s message. It’s clear that different people have had different interpretations of the film (my girlfriend and I, who both loved it, talked about it for days afterwards, not quite agreeing on what it was about). And many others seem to think there is some “deep,” self-serious message in the film that they aren’t interested in and that is poorly communicated to boot (i.e. Vern’s “I’m sure von Trier is probly saying something real fuckin deep about women or the nature of evil or therapy or chestnuts.”) But, I mean… so what? What was the message of THE EXORCIST? What was the message of THE THING or FRIDAY THE 13TH or THE BLOB or a million other horror movies? Why is Von Trier being singled out for not having a clear message when the vast majority of horror films lack a clear moral or thesis? Personally, I thought the haunting atmosphere and genuine suspense of ANTICHRIST were praiseworthy enough on their own terms, regardless of whether or not I understand the supposed message.

    (PS If any of this came off a dickish or confrontational, I apologize. I’m actually curious to hear peoples’ thoughts, I’m not trying to insult anyone’s opinion or anything like that.)

  44. Man, I couldn’t believe that scene where Janis knocked off Rizzo the Rat’s junk with a log. And then the log started singing.

  45. Dan Prestwich: I don’t think you’re coming off as dickish. Fans of David Lynch often encounter the same
    resistence you seem to have experienced with ANTICHRIST.

    Words and theories will only take us so far in a visual medium, which is, in my opinion, the beauty
    of film. Film can insinuate itself into our minds in unexpected ways, and can disarm us or unsettle us or
    exhilerate us in ways that we can’t always explain. I can come up with all sorts of theories about
    LOST HIGHWAY, but at the end of the day a viewer just may not be susceptible to what Lynch was doing
    in that film, and no amount of pontificating from me is going to change that.

    von Trier probably gets singled out because he has situated himself as an abrasive public figure. If Lynch is
    given an easier time, it’s probably because of his so-normal-he’s-weird persona, which is much more

    I don’t know about “pretentious,” but von Trier is definitely “difficult.” That upsets some people. Not
    everyone wants their movies to be a chore.

  46. Jareth,

    No doubt I understand why people wouldn’t like this movie. I’m just a little curious as to why I’m sensing hostility over two issues:

    1) That ANTICHRIST is for some reason a pretentious art movie, and that this is inherently a bad thing, and horror movies shouldn’t be like this.

    2) That ANTICHRIST apparently has a message or moral or thesis, but that it’s unclear, and therefore makes the movie bad.

  47. I think Martyrs is a better directed film and is much more concise than Antichrist but I found the themes of Anti-Christ scarier than the themes of Martyrs. I’m curious to hear your perspective, Dan, on each films attitude towards God. Clearly both films of their own opinions towards God but go about it in two completely different yet similar ways. Discuss.

  48. Dan Prestwich
    great post, and it’s interesting that you mentioned my fave “Exorcist”, I have some musings about it’s message, if you want I’ll share)

    I’ll respond to you, CJ and Cutesy later. Firstly I have one question to all of you guys:
    So who’s antichrist, He or She?
    This question haunts me for a long time now. It is generally believed that antichrist must be a man, but in the film’s title “t” stands as a female sign. And from the film’s contents one cannot say with confidence, who is who, cause they both do pretty horrible things.
    Of course the term “antichrist” in this film could mean state of mind or higher form of unobedience, that would be very cinematic) I’m really at loss, what do you think guys?

  49. Kuryakin: “If this guy really thinks he’s being a feminist by showing women as passive victims…”

    Passive? Once the meds wore off, she seemed rather active…

    J.C.: “Not everyone wants their movies to be a chore.”

    Does anyone?

    I’m with Dan here, it seems. I’m not sure why some things are labeled pretentious or why that’s bad. I guess the phrase “artsy” could apply and be considered a pejorative, but shit, I got a house full of art. I went to an art school. I was raised by an artist. I like fucking art. If that makes me pretentious, so be it. I also still buy Archie comics from the grocery checkout lane. Does that make me a simpleton? So be it.

    I had no agenda when it came to this movie (other than being able to stay awake for two hours after my wife fell asleep). I sat down in front of the TV, I watched a movie, I liked the movie a helluva lot.

    I thought it was funny and creepy and lovely and mostly deeply, deeply sad and yet somehow uplifting in that some filmmaker had found a way to make a cinematic and entertaining (yeah, as in it entertained me) reflection of the fluid yet seemingly eternal back and forth struggle between male and female or maternal and paternal or animus and anima or rational and instinctual or however the hell else you want to interpret it whether it’s individual, cultural, societal…

    Blah, blah, blah. Stupid movie, making my brain tell me things.

    Maybe it’s too much of that goldarned book learnin, but while I think in terms of interpretive density this film sits wide open like a hungry hooker, I also thought there was a pretty clear theme, just this side of whacking me in the head: Men and women both are terrified of female sexuality. The results of this terror are horrific.

    Also, if you’re a therapist, don’t treat family.

    (Also, ‘Eden’ seems exactly like what these two half-wit semi-intellectuals would call their vacation home.)

    I also like Von Trier’s fake America. Guy hates airplanes but finds America fascinating. So he makes a fake one. It’s not a slight on us, folks. It just a glimpse into the archetype swimming in one man’s head. My moniker is in fact a version of a character I used to slip into in my younger, more partying days, a gentleman of questionable accent and provenance, who would make absurd or grotesque claims, then follow with a shrug and the phrase, “but of course I am European, you know.” I don’t recall my simplistic and misguided European pastiche angering any exchange students.

    Granted Von Trier has a wider stage. Still, this is one man’s vision. And before he makes you too angry, think about all your relatives, coworkers, and acquaintances. How many have heard of this movie? Of this guy? And if the idea of misogyny (which I don’t believe this film to be) really pisses you off? Fight the real enemy and boycott that asshole James Cameron.

    But a chore? I mean, I get it. As delightful as I might find THE MIRROR, I don’t make my wife watch Tarkovsky.

    But ANTICHRIST? This movie is brief in run time, pretty as the day, brimming with crazy, and stars Willem Dafoe.

    Add beer and a recliner and a fresh fall apple (I’m a fuji man, myself) and you got a recipe for a good time.

    ps–anyone seen this New Look thing in the Archie double digests, supposed to be more realistic and comic-booky and less Sunday-funnies? Fucking terrifying.

  50. Jesus. That didn’t feel that long when I wrote it. Sorry.

  51. Vern (and sundry),


    From everything I’ve read (here and elsewhere), I’m reasonably sure that this (PG-13 at worst) mixmastering of the trailer for _The Fantastic Mr. Fox_ will make more sense, once juxtaposed with _Antichrist_ trailer footage.

    (I wonder if anyone has gone further with this joke, and if so how far and how successfully…)

  52. Lawrence,

    Hmm, I’m definitely curious to hear your response as I’m not really sure what either film has to say about god. But let me offer these thoughts:

    ANTICHRIST is, as its title implies, about the opposite of god. The woman says at one point something to the effect of “nature is Satan’s playground.” That seems to be Von Trier’s conception of Eden/nature in the film. Nature is the absence of god, “chaos reigns,” or if there is anything in change, it’s malevolent. Arguably this force could be the cause of the woman’s mounting insanity/violent behavior. I’m not sure that a concept of god is even posited in the film… but you obviously think otherwise…

    As for MARTYRS, that’s a tough one. What the shadowy cult (were they named? I don’t recall) are willing to do in order to find evidence of god or the afterlife ends up being the driving force. The ending implies that whatever vision the heroine had of the afterlife was terrifying or soul shattering… but the exact nature of it is left ambiguous. And for me, I don’t know that the ending really worked. I think they were trying to go for some sort of existential dread, but it just seemed like one last ridiculous twist thrown on top of the movie’s tall pile of ridiculous twists.

    What I’m saying is, I really want to hear what you have to say.

  53. Though I agree with Alfonse, too: the most obvious theme is that men and women both tend to be terrified of female sexuality, which leads to both genders tending to do horrible things to one another.

    Which, come to think of it, may also be the most obvious theme to the Twilight movies…

    (Not that I think this generalization should be or even can be mass-applied in real life, but again that seems to be the main point of the movie.)


  54. andrew-film,

    My question was more rhetorical, but I would still like to hear your thoughts on EXORCIST.

    Mainly, I was just trying to make a point that no one watches HALLOWEEN and says “I’m not sure what John Carpenter is trying to tell me about serial killers or babysitters, therefore this is a bad movie.” But that seems to be happening with ANTICHRIST. “I’m not sure what Von Trier is trying to say about psychotherapy or about sexual relations, therefore this is a bad movie.” That assumes that there is even SUPPOSED TO BE an easily summed up message, as if the film is a Aesop fable and needs a moral at the end.

  55. Dan: Well, I’d venture to guess that the responses you have described could be the understandable result of being challenged. I’ve sat through Greenaway films with enough people to know that “pretentious” is often the initial response of a mind struggling to come to terms with a strategy of film-making that offers some viewers very little to grab onto. A guy I saw A ZED & TWO NOUGHTS with even told me flat out: “It hurts my feelings that I don’t have the visual vocabulary to make sense of that film. So fuck you, Greenaway.”

    The person I saw LIMITS OF CONTROL with said that she felt sorry for anyone who went into the film without knowing POINT BLANK. And Jarmusch is probably among the most mainstream art house film-makers.

    von Trier conforms to the cliche of the art house autuer better than any film-maker I can think of:

    Targetting a niche audience? Yes.
    Assumes his audience has fluency in art house history? Check.
    Directly antagonistic to mainstream values? Probably to a fault.
    Obsessed with “authorial expressivity”? Yup.
    Loosening the chain of cause and effect? Pretty much.
    Favors psychology and inner drama over plot and action? Fuck yeah.
    Distrust of pleasing aesthetics? I’d say so.
    Interested in technical innovation? For sure.

    I totally agree with your points in general, and I’ve spent numerous hours trying to defend movies like LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD to people who felt insulted by them. But, without reducing a whole bunch of diverse film-makers to one agenda, I think that it is safe to say that von Trier has taken it upon himself to challenge people, to even antagonize them. I think art house film-making has an oppositional stance at its very foundation. There will always be hostility to such an undertaking.

    But yeah, I find it sad that audiences seemed better able to appreciate challenging films during Godard’s and Buñuel’s peak periods than they are after 40 years of living with those films. Maybe that’s the beautiful curse of enjoying films that are made on the margins.

    For the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with approaching film with the specific goal of being entertained. That’s what some people want from a film. I can live with that.

  56. Dan: Regarding your specific examples of HALLOWEEN and THE EXORCIST: when a film like ANTICHRIST sets itself up to subvert or challenge the conventions of mainstream film-making, I think it is justifiable that an audience would respond by wondering what the reason for that subversion or challenge is. I think an audience member who expects a “theme” from a von Trier horror movie that they wouldn’t expect from a Carpernter film is a bit off base, but to expect some kind of justification for why von Trier is messing with the formula is reasonable. Even if the response to the question is simply: because I want to mess with the formula.

  57. Jareth,

    I don’t want to go so far as to accuse people who called this movie pretentious of being cine-illiterate or afraid of being challenged. Frankly, I didn’t even consider ANTICHRIST to be a challenging film (whatever that means), I thought it was engrossing, entertaining, suspenseful and atmospheric. And as Alfonse pointed out, it’s not even like it was much of a time commitment.

    I’m just hoping more people will defend their charges that the film was pretentious nonsense. I want clarification, because all I can see so far is a sort of reverse-snobbery, using “art house” as a negative term and immediately equating ambition with pretension. Someone called the film “po faced,” and that may be an accurate description, I think a lot of the negative criticism here has been interesting and fair. But I’m also sensing this attitude, this mindset that wants to ghetto-ize horror movies, as if they can’t commingle with the “art house.”

    As a fan of horror movies, this limiting point of view bugs me. Why can’t a horror film be an art film? Why is it so offensive that a fancy-pants artsy fartsy director made a horror film is his own fancy-pants arty fartsy style?

    So what I’m looking for is for someone to counter this, tell me I’m wrong, argue what the mean when they call the film pretentious (or whatever) and tell me why that makes it a bad film.

  58. I think it’s nice that everyone is having this discussion about art films and pretentiousness and everything, but these comments seem to be drifting away from the main purpose of comments on this site, as I understand it: ripping on Michael Bay and Platinum Dunes. Maybe we should try and steer the conversation in that direction?

    Dan Prestwich, I would also be interested in people’s responses to those two items you list since I’ve wondered about such things myself before. It seems like many people, including a lot of filmmakers themselves, think every film needs to have A Point. Some clearly defined purpose that can be described in a sentence or two. Most films seem to fall into that category so I always find it refreshing to see films like ANTICHRIST, or Lynch’s films or even STARSHIP TROOPERS 3 where the filmmakers don’t just come out and say, “The point of this film is that dogmatic religious beliefs are bad.” Or whatever. Sometimes it’s nice where the point is the experience of watching the film (and maybe discussing it afterward), not just one concrete underlying theme.

    I can definitely see where people could get upset with films like ANTICHRIST (or LIMITS OF CONTROL from earlier this year) where there are a lot of implications about deeper meanings but no explicit explanations. That could be frustrating. Those kind of films have never really bothered me though. I don’t really need to understand a filmmaker’s intentions to enjoy a film. I’m pretty glad my brain works that way. Means more movies I can love.

  59. Jake and Jareth,

    Both good points, thank you. If I understand you guys, you’re saying that something about ANTICHRIST left the impression to Vern and others that the film was trying to make some grand statement or that Von Trier had some sort of master’s thesis he was making with the film. So the film created an expectation and then failed to fulfill it clearly. I can’t see better now why they might harp on this point, even if I don’t agree. Thanks.

  60. J.C: I am both jealous that you have numerous friends willing to watch all this stuff with you and relieved I don’t have to do that much defense and explication of my tastes.

    But here’s the part I’m interested in: “For the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with approaching film with the specific goal of being entertained. That’s what some people want from a film. I can live with that.”

    I don’t understand (and this isn’t some sort of willful, Socratic obtuseness, it’s just me not getting it) the idea that some films ARE worthwhile but ARE NOT entertaining. I mean, if we’re talking historic footage of mass graves, well, yes, worthwhile but not entertaining. But in the realm of fiction, even the most troublesome piece would seem to require the ability to entertain at least someone.

    Hell, maybe it’s a matter of definition. If something entertains me, I deem it worthwhile. If I find a thing worthwhile, then it by definition engaged me thoroughly enough that I found it entertaining. By ‘entertained’ I certainly don’t mean ‘rendered me giddy with glee,’ though lots of supposedly difficult art does that to me on a very gut, non-cerebral level; I mean that my brain and eyeballs and ears got together and said ‘hey, let’s keep looking at this, instead of making a sandwich or reading that book over there.’

    So I guess I’m looking for a definition of terms? What do you find worthwhile but not entertaining?

    (And I’m convinced people who dig SCHINDLER’S LIST and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN are there for the entertainment. Otherwise THE SORROW AND THE PITY would be a blockbuster. Which would be awesome and speak well of society.)

    By the by and by to anyone reading: I’ve never engaged another soul on the internet til Vern brought us this thing, and for one simple reason: those people out there are rude and dull. It’s so nice to engage in civil and compelling discussion of the joys of the moving pictures. Bless you people.

  61. Dan Prestwich – While I am speaking for Vern and the others I’d just like to add that they probably also want to say, “Jake is perhaps the most interesting and insightful commenter on this site. I wish we had a hundred more just like him.”

  62. Vern/Jake in 2012.

    On the Outlaw ticket.

  63. Dan: I guess I’m not accusing people of a wide-ranging illiteracy so much as I am describing the largely unconscious maps we use to get through a film. I think the act of watching a movie is largely emotional or psychological, and it can be disorienting when even a mainstream film like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN strays from what we expect.

    You know that Captain Beefheart record “Trout Mask Replica”? I’m guessing that it takes a few listens for even the most accomplished drummer to hear patterns in the drumming. And even an English poetry professor might be thrown off a bit at first by the lyrics, even though time reveals some clever metaphors. Even knowing that it’s a difficult album going in doesn’t prepare your senses for what you’re going to hear. Some people are inevitably going to wonder why the record isn’t “Exile on Main Street.”

    I’m probably the biggest dummy when it comes to this sort of thing. To this day I have a really hard time watching westerns; they’re like a culture I’m not familiar with. Even classics like UNFORGIVEN took multiple viewings before my body caught up
    with my brain on that one.

  64. I’m not saying that horror movies can’t or shouldn’t be art or pretencious, I’m just annoyed that some movies get a free pass as soon as they are labelled as art. Instead of pointing out their flaws and maybe even their overall failure, people are defending it by saying: “No no no, it means something. It has many different layers and even if I don’t get it and it bored me to death and failed to make me care about anything that happened in it, it’s a good movie because it’s art.”
    If “Antichrist” would have been exactly the same movie as it is now, but directed by a faceless newcomer or a buddy of Tarantino and would have come out on DVD instead at Cannes, we probably wouldn’t have this discussion by now. But you pull the art-card and people are talking about it as it would automatically a better movie. It’s “Irreversible” all over again. You make a bad movie with some highly controversial content, call it art, screen it at the right festival and suddenly everybody is defending it as an important movie, instead of saying: “Y’know, nice try, but in the end it seriously didn’t work.”
    That’s all I’m saying. Arthouse movies can be as bad as “normal” movies, but we don’t treat them as such.

  65. CJ,

    I guess I just don’t agree that arthouse movies are given a free pass. Plenty of them get trashed critically every year, and plenty of mainstream hits garner critical praise. I can honestly say that I loved ANTICHRIST, and I’m not just pretending about how I felt because of it’s reputation or because it’s “arthouse” and not commercial.

  66. I’m not saying that everybody gives them a free pass, but it’s easier for them to get one.

  67. Now i started two posts in a row with “I’m not saying that”… :P

  68. CJ,

    So do you believe that most critics and filmlovers base their opinions around a film or filmmaker’s reputation rather than on the film itself? That they make concious, rational decisions to like certain films and dislike others based on arbitrary criteria? Because I just don’t see it that way. I don’t think any critics pretended to like, say, A SERIOUS MAN because they assumed it was art, and I don’t think anyone pretended to dislike, say, PLANET 51 just because it was mainstream.

  69. CJ: Too often “art” is nothing more than a discourse that gets applied to something by a bunch of people with a vested interest that something’s success. Most often, it’s gallery and festival nitwits who know the price of everything and the worth of nothing. We live in an age when something gets called “art” without going through any kind of meaningful assessment by skilled experts. It’s largely just another marketing tool now.

    Significantly, guys like Lynch and Jarmusch and Herzog don’t talk much about “art.” They talk about film and painting and music.

  70. “So do you believe that most critics and filmlovers base their opinions around a film or filmmaker’s reputation rather than on the film itself? That they make concious, rational decisions to like certain films and dislike others based on arbitrary criteria?”
    Yes, I do. Although I wouldn’t necessarily say “most” critics, but “many”. And I don’t know if it’s their real opinion, but it’s at least the one that they publish in newspapers and websites.

  71. And for what purpose do they lie about their own opinions?

  72. Dan,

    I can’t speak for anybody else, but I certainly believe that “most critics and filmlovers base their opinions around a film or filmmaker’s reputation rather than on the film itself”. I pretty much stopped reading film criticism (which I used to be addicted to) when I realized I could accurately predict how a movie was going to be reviewed just from watching the trailer. And I’m reasonably sure that a lot of critics (even some major ones) are going to pre-release gossip sites like AICN and getting a sense of the “buzz” and crafting their reviews and opinions accordingly; they may not even be conscious that that’s what they’re doing…but that’s what they’re doing. And, it seems obvious to me that are certain film-makers who, if they didn’t have their “hip” reputations, if they were judged solely from their work, they’d be considered at about the same level as Albert Pyun.

    And I absolutely think a lot of critics pretend to like films they don’t actually like (and trash movies they actually do like). It’s not really an issue of art-film vs. Hollywood though. It’s more like “With it” vs. “Out of Touch”. I don’t, for a second, believe that that many critics like Iron Man, Spider-Man 2, and Lord of the Rings, it’s just that those movies have satisfied certain precepts in the critical mind that safely and easily allow for a good review.

    Now, I believe there’s probably no intentional malice involved in all this. I think it’s mostly a subconscious phenomenon – it’s just people doing what they always do, which is whatever is easiest.

  73. Alfonse G. – Here’s a totally idiosyncratic response to your earlier questions:

    I appreciate ALPHAVILLE but don’t really enjoy it. I admire the technique, I recognize it’s importance, but
    watching it is a bit like a lesson. A good lesson, but not necessarily enjoyable. I can argue for the film’s
    significance but can’t really say that I connect to it outside some grand idea of film history.

    I’m totally intoxicated by LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD but it is so disarming that I can’t explain why
    I enjoy it. It’s like being in a trance. I could watch it over and over again and still be entranced. Much like
    ERASERHEAD, except after more than 20 years I’ve finally come up with something resembling an
    explanation for ERASERHEAD.

    MARTYRS hit me in the gut and even though I agree with Dan’s criticism of a trick ending, the film still had
    and emotional impact on me that wasn’t compromised by the flaws. I wouldn’t characterize my respsonse
    as enjoyment and I feel no need to sit through it again.

    SAVING PRIVATE RYAN offends my sensibilites and I think it is a weak, manipulative exercise in Halmark
    propaganda. But I was never bored when I watched it, even though the flaws were apparent while watching

    I guess that’s the beauty of film: you never know how a particular film will get sorted out through your
    emotions and/or intellect and/or nerve endings. I know for some people it is crucial to be entertained; that
    just isn’t the case for me. I’ll sit through almost anything.

  74. “And for what purpose do they lie about their own opinions?”
    Because they wanna be taken seriously. Y’know, it’s difficult for a critic to be taken seriously when you are the guy who enjoyed this year’s Bruckheimer production, but dismissed the special jury award winner from filmfestival X.

  75. Okay guys, I don’t really want to push this topic any further, but your theories on film critics making up their opinions to conform to some sort of standard doesn’t really account for the fact that most movies, even when they are overwhelmingly praised or faulted, always have plenty of critics voicing dissenting opinions. Take a look at most (good) critics records, and you’ll see that they will disagree with the majority opinion plenty of times.

    Not to mention the tons and tons or films every year that garner mixed, even divisive, reviews.

  76. Dan Prestwich
    “My question was more rhetorical…”
    No, no, I completely understand that, you just mentioned “Exorcist” and I thought that it has similar themes to “Antichrist”, like good vs. evil, science vs. superstition, supernatural possession, psychiatric treatment, child abuse, etc.
    Anyway I’ll try to be as short as I can.

    “Exorcist” holds very well on its own as a story of a possessed girl, who’s trying to be cured by psychiatric help, but doctors fail and they propose turning to religion instead. It’s scary as hell and I personally think it’s the best horror-film of all time. But maybe there are different layers to this story.

    Some people offer interesting interpretation: “Exorcist” is really a story of a teenage girl with hormones gone crazy, who got sexually abused and psychologically damaged.

    First victim is Burke Dennings, who was thrown out of Reagans window, and the question is, what was he doing in her bedroom in the first place? It’s possible that he was sexually abusing this girl. She first comes into possessed state at the hospital, after doctor wants to measure her temperature, he says “put it in your mouth” as I remember correctly, maybe at this moment her repressed emotions and psychosis burst out. Then she talks to doctor as if expected to be molested. Whatever she endured before literally turns her into a monster for the rest of the film. So is Regan actually possessed or are we watching her condition as seen through the eyes of people who are imposing their supernatural beliefs upon what could simply be a case of post-abuse trauma?

    I’ve seen some videos on youtube and in reality many people often comment on exorcism as false belief in supernatural, when in fact looney hormones make children’s behaviour drastically shifted.

    Well, these are not all my own thoughts, I’ve read a number of reviews exploring these thoughts further with many other details, but you get the message.

  77. I think CJ Holden is basically right.

    Many critics, especially those want to be taken “seriously”, will bullshit so to join the CW. You know the jokers who want their names slapped on DVD covers. That and some critics just fall victim to old fashion peer pressure to conform. Who doesn’t want to fit in?

    I’m reminded of that story about how Terry Gilliam after that infamous FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS Cannes screening debacle, learned from some critics who said they liked it, but didn’t want to stick out from that angry mob of critics.

    Vern on the otherhand, he doesn’t give a fuck. I mean how many nerds on the Internet are willing to say that he prefers the Ang Lee HULK to the Ed Norton one? Or go to war with the geeks when they go stupid for a dumbass like TRANSFORMERS?

    I would almost say the same of Roger Ebert. Yeah yeah he was “wrong” (i.e. disagreed with the CW and later appraisements) on shit from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE to EXCALIBUR to DIE HARD and FIGHT CLUB and so on.

    But you know what? I trust him. I believe when he likes something, he isn’t bullshitting. I believe when he outright hates something, the rage is real. I guess his difference is that on TV, you can tell when someone is genuine with the love or trashing. I mean no way he could be blowing smoke out of his smoke for that enthusiastic review for CONGO and SUDDEN DEATH.

    I would say the same of most if not all guys who frequent this web sight.

  78. By the way let me throw this at you guys:
    “Paranormal Activity” is at heart an art-house minimalistic horror film, but everybody loves it and nobody calls it empty and pretentious. Why?

  79. andrew-film,

    Oh, I think that’s clear enough. While PA may be low budget and minimalist, there’s nothing arthouse or overly self-serious about it. It’s playful and scary in a fun way and mainstream in its sensibility. I didn’t ultimately care for it myself, although I liked the actors and thought there was an isolated scene or two that was effective.

  80. Dan,

    Thanks for the thoughtful discussion. I’ll see if I can answer your main questions.

    “1) That ANTICHRIST is for some reason a pretentious art movie, and that this is inherently a bad thing, and horror movies shouldn’t be like this.”

    I tried to be fair in my review and say from the beginning that what I found ridiculous could be totally valid to other people (most of them in this thread it looks like). And I felt uncomfortable calling it pretentious because I definitely see that from the other side, people accusing something I think is great of just being a sham, emperor’s new clothes type of deal. I didn’t want to imply that.

    What I tried to describe in the review though is the way the movie came across to me more like von Trier putting on an act than really meaning it. Like he was trying to be outrageous and wiggle his dick around and then poke us with a stick and run away giggling and then pretend to be shocked when we ask him why he did it. And I tried to get across in the review that I don’t necessarily think that’s an accurate description of his motives, but it’s the way it felt to me while watching the movie and therefore I couldn’t let my defenses down and let the movie get to me.

    But I definitely think there are cases – and I hope this isn’t me here – where it’s kind of a cultural defense mechanism, people assuming because they don’t like something willfully obscure that the person who made that thing thinks they’re stupid for “not getting it” and therefore they dismiss that thing all the harsher and say anybody who does like it is a phony. I’m definitely not trying to do that last part, but I guess I do a version of this in the review where I’m wondering if von Trier is turning his nose up to a more straightforward style of horror as if it’s not as good as his.

    I’m not against arty and weird, obviously I have been known to like some of those things, but it’s true that my tastes lean toward a combination of the two, where it is strong storytelling that satisfies the needs of the genre but then also manages to be experimental and challenging. A best of both worlds kind of approach.

    “2) That ANTICHRIST apparently has a message or moral or thesis, but that it’s unclear, and therefore makes the movie bad.”

    I think that’s because ANTICHRIST only does the experimental part and not the satisfying the needs of the genre part (in my view). Because the story is minimal and the characters don’t seem like human beings and they’re always talking about academic concepts (shit, even the fox in the woods is some anarchy nerd). Clearly von Trier is not interested in wrapping us up in his story or characters, so what is he interested in? No, movies don’t need to be ABOUT something but when they don’t satisfy any of the traditional qualities of a movie then isn’t it fair to assume that dude must’ve thought he was saying something?

    I mean, don’t you think he was? Alfonse G.’s description of the battle between emotional and analytical thinking made me wonder if there was stuff going on there that would’ve been interesting to me if I’d picked up on it (although that’s similar to what I thought Neil Labute’s WICKER MAN was trying to do).

    We don’t question what HALLOWEEN has to say about babysitters because we don’t have to ask what “the point” is of HALLOWEEN. When your heart is beating and you hope Laurie gets out of that closet without getting stabbed that’s all the point it needs. ANTICHRIST doesn’t have anything as obvious so for some of us it leaves us looking for something else. We know von Trier wasn’t just doing a bad job of making HALLOWEEN, so we try to figure out what he *was* trying to do. Must’ve been something, right? And I think maybe if all we can see is exploring and not coming to conclusions it can be kind of unsatisfying, like he showed us a doodle instead of a painting. “Here are these things I was thinking about – I’m not sure what to make of them.”

    So all that means is that it’s unsatisfying to us, not that there’s some rule that everything must make sense. In fact, I believe horror sometimes shouldn’t make sense. One thing I meant to mention in the review is that I could see this working for somebody in the way that SUSPIRIA or INFERNO (or even SILENT HILL) works for me. Nothing seems real but it does seem very true to my subconscious, therefore the lack of logic and plausible character dialogue and behavior is actually a plus, it hits me in some primal place or something. It sounds like some of you got that out of this, plus more. I think maybe all that therapy talk (even if it serves a thematic point) got me too into the thinking part of the brain. Could’ve used less talk and more dead baby deer hanging out of a mama deer’s ass.

    My comparison to CANDYMAN was unfair, and there’s room in the world for both. But to me that movie seems to have as much or more going on with its exploration of the legacy of slavery in the United States and still manages to engross you in a story and characters and has big scares along with its surreal freakouts and gutpunches. And it also takes white American intellectuals down a notch, but in a more sympathetic and relatable way than ANTICHRIST does. The only reason to bring that up though is an assumption that von Trier or somebody is saying that this movie is deeper and better than “real” horror movies. But nobody said that. To my face.

  81. kuryakin — I wouldn’t necessarily want to defend Von Treir’s overall career one way or another. I mean, by all acounts the guy is a neurotic asshole, and he definitely has his issues with women. ANTICHRIST surprised me, though, in what I take as a rather well thought-out metaphor for the insidious way which migogyny becomes a tragic chain of self-fulfilling prophecies. I think “He” realizes how much of this was all his fault only at the end (epilogue), as he comes face to face with the long history of violence against women (represented by the faceless women walking past him), and suddenly sees how much a part of it he now is. I believe the central focus of the whole thing is that women end up with all the blame (from men and from themselves) because of the way the male culture has associated them with the natural world, which they view with suspicion and hostility.

    Men insist on acting unnaturally, and then view women as the antithesis of their arbitrary, cultivated sense of normality and morality — the antichrist. So, they try to stamp out all and belittle all that is natural to women’s, and probably human, nature. (I think this is symbolized in his efforts to crush and bury the bird, which just won’t die and keeps betraying his calculated decision to hide. The bird also appears at the end when he too turns savage, which is what allows him to save himself). “He” believes in control, in systems and order. Suffering the wrenching greif and alienation of her life, she finally has to break completely with his reality (which is the only reality allowed in his world) in order to deal with the intense, illogical feelings the experience has created in her. Small wonder, then, that “she” ends up a little batty. And small wonder that he decides that murder is his only option; he doesn’t even understand what’s happening and how he’s making it worse.

    If not exactly feminism, I think it actually ends up being a surprisingly (for Lars, anyway) empathetic portrayal of the female perspective, and a unique and well-crafted enough one that it’s worth considering. Lars may be an asshole, but I think in ANTICHRIST he’s actually being pretty earnest about his feeling that women are mistreated, marginalized, and undermined by a narrow male definition of normalcy. I also think he’s being earnest about the horror; I think he wanted to make an actual, scary movie about the things which scare him. Given his predilication for using story and characters as props for exploring the more meta level of storytelling and filmmaking, I think people may have not been entirely ready to accept a more earnest film from him and keep looking for the ways in which he’s trying to fuck with them; if they’re here in this case, I didn’t pick up on them. I think this one may actually be about the themes and experience of the film itself, rather than about the expectations of narrative or voyeurism of the viewer or what have you.

    But I could be wrong. Anyway, I had a grand time discussing it and thinking about it.

  82. andrew-film: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY doesn’t conform to my idea of art house, but I tend to favor the definition of “art house” where “challenging the conventions of mainstream film” is the key feature. In that respect, I think PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is far too conventional to qualify. I see it as continuous with the dominant trends, themes and techniques of its era.

    But on the technical end of things, it could be argued that the handheld stuff sure would have been art house if the film was made prior to the 1990s. All that hand-held stuff could have been a major “fuck you” to the studio polished stuff of the era. But these days, hand-held is the aesthetic norm.

    Much of the production history of the film was totally independent, so that’s an arthouse feather in the film’s cap. Then Speilberg got his hands on it.

    But that’s just my two cents.

  83. I would so totally sit through a film where von Trier wiggles his dick around and then pokes us with a
    stick and runs away giggling.

  84. Vern,

    I appreciate your response, and I feel better enlightened about your, and possible others’, opinion on the film. And I’m seeing where a big difference comes in… I DID find the film the be intense, I DID find the characters to be fleshed out and interesting and (although they are both kind of despicable) empathized with them as people, and despite the possible academic elements in the dialogue, the film worked for me on an emotional level more than an intellectual one. It pulled me through the emotional wringer.

    My needs for the genre were satisfied thoroughly, and then some. The movie, for me, was heavy on atmosphere and suspense. Yet I can see why, if the movie wasn’t working for you, maybe you’d be more inclined to try to pinpoint its thesis. I didn’t think there was a simple message to ANTICHRIST, more that Von Trier was mining certain themes he’s fascinated with for their horror-movie potential. I don’t think there was an overarcing message about evil, or women, or sexuality, or psychology or whatever, just that he tried to find the elements of each that terrified him. And it terrified me too. But I get now that, if the movie wasn’t working for you emotionally, all of these things might seem like clues that lead to no solution, and that might feel like useless meandering.

  85. Vern — don’t sweat it, man. Your review does come across as a tad hostile to arty shit, but we all know you well enough to know that’s not what you mean (i’d wager you like Tarkovsky at last as much as Von Treirs does, and you guys could probably have a great discussion about Alejandro Jodorowsky as well). And I think we’re all sometimes a little annoyed when a director seems so arrogantly assured about the genius and high-art status of his own work (which I can pretty well promise you Von Treirs is). It’s self-conscious artiness might also come across as somewhat demeaning to more mainstream horror (I think a couple other people thought that here, too) which isn’t really in the movie itself but it’s hard to believe Lars would really think that CANDYMAN has equal value to his work. And, of course, if you just can’t get into it, what else are you gonna think about? I certainly don’t blame you or anyone who didn’t like it; like those dream-logic things you mentioned, this one lives and dies by how it gets under your skin. If it can’t, its just so much pointless shit, a puzzle you don’t particularly care to see the picture in, so why put it together?

    So yeah, for me, the movie worked beautifully, but I can entirely understand why you or anyone else hated it. I do think, though, that von Treirs was really trying to make something good and scary here, not just make people think he’s deep. In other words, although he does it in his own weird, arty way, I think he was honestly attempting to make a great horror film about things that he finds scary.

    For what it’s worth.

  86. Btw, arty screen grab for the top of the review. That one picture pretty much tells you exactly what you need to know about the film and its real purty too.

  87. I’m sorry Vern, I hope this doesn’t make you sick, but that reply was one of the best things you’ve ever written…so spot on.

    There is a piece in there that makes me think of Paradise Alley…..Paradise Alley has more to say about about poverty and the attempts to to leave it than any kitchen sink drama…but still delivers top notch entertainment, including the funniest suicide on film and really fun wrestling.

  88. Oh and to clarify, my point #1 was more aimed at comments I read here and other places moreso than Vern’s review. Point #2 was more specifically concerning Vern’s comments.

  89. “I’m totally intoxicated by LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD but it is so disarming that I can’t explain why I enjoy it.” –Jareth

    Because it’s fuckin awesome, J.C.

    That’s why.

    God, I wish film school had been more like this comments section for an arthouse horror movie no one I know has heard of, on a website called ‘Then Fuck You, Jack.’

  90. Actually, the fox is saying “KAOS reigns!”

    (He’s a big BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER fan.)

    How’s that for surreal horror?

  91. Look, I can suspend disbelief. I can understand a dream logic where a self-disemboweling fox speaks cliches in a Mortal Kombat voice.

    But no one is a BALLISTIC: ECKS VS SEVER fan. No one.

  92. More than once I’ve been tempted to actually rent BALLISTIC: ECKS VS SEVER just to see if it’s as bad as everyone says.

    If the previous sentence sounds like a cry for help to any of you, please take this opportunity to talk me out of it.

  93. Jareth,

    It IS as bad as everyone says, but I would in no way ever talk you out of seeing it.

    1) You will get sufficient number of laughs out of it.

    2) You will come to a greater appreciation of good action films.

  94. And although it’s bad, you can’t deny that it has some seriously awesome stuntwork. (Like the guy who falls from a rooftop down on a car, while the camera above him is following all the time without one single edit. Or the scene that looks like a blooper, where Banderas tries to outrun some explosions, but suddenly one of them goes off right next to him.)
    Not sure if you should really RENT it (as in “spend money for it”) but if you catch it on TV, you should try to record and watch it, when you got nothing better to do.

  95. Some day I can see myself appreciating ANTICHRIST, but not LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD. I gotta admit I don’t get that one *at all*. The only thing I got out of it was a hilarious Mad Magazine style parody title that incorporates the word “bored” into it. No time to explain it but man, does it stick it to LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD when I call it that.

    But I’m very proud to provide a forum for people who are interested in both LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD and BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER. That’s what it’s all about, man.

  96. I avoided Von Trier for years after Dancer in the Dark. I thought it was an amazing film, but there was enough going on in the real world to depress me that I didn’t feel the need to see more of his output. Then I got talked into watching Dogville a few months ago, which blew my mind and is now one of my favorite movies. The last ten minutes – DAMN.

    So now I guess I’m Von Trier-curious, and the fact that you guys all have such passionate and intelligent arguments both for and against the film makes me even more eager to check it out. Great comments everybody.

    PS Gwai Lo’s right, Bad Lieutenant fucking rules.

  97. VERN,

    “What I tried to describe in the review though is the way the movie came across to me more like von Trier putting on an act than really meaning it. Like he was trying to be outrageous and wiggle his dick around and then poke us with a stick and run away giggling and then pretend to be shocked when we ask him why he did it. And I tried to get across in the review that I don’t necessarily think that’s an accurate description of his motives, but it’s the way it felt to me while watching the movie and therefore I couldn’t let my defenses down and let the movie get to me.”


    I think there is at least *some* truth to that. I haven’t seen Antichrist yet, so I can’t comment on that particular movie. But Trier’s filmography as a whole definitely shows that he has a subtle, very black and macabre sense of humor. And he enjoys upsetting people.

    It’s also worth saying that many people who enjoy his movies also enjoy the rascal-like attitude Trier has. And sometimes it’s really hard to say whether he is being serious, or whether he is doing something he finds funny. I’m guessing often he is doing both at the same time.

    But you hit the nail in the head with your comment that this kind of film either works on you, or doesn’t, depending whether it hits you on some primal place. Much like many David Lynch movies. Mostly I don’t like these kinds of movies, but then again I’m a great admirer of Tarkovsky, who does speak to some private place of mine.

    Antichrist looks interesting. I’m hoping that it doesn’t have too much psychotherapy talk for my taste, because generally that kind of stuff is exactly what tends to kill these kind of movies for me. Lynch and Tarkovsky work for me so well largely because people don’t talk that much in them. It’s much easier to be drawn in by hypnotic visuals and atmosphere when you’re not constantly interrupted by dialogue that only annoys you.

  98. Tuuka – There is a fair bit of the psychotherapy talk though it is treated sarcastically by von Trier which might help redeem it for you. I personally found it to be pretty amusing to see the self-seriousness of Dafoe’s character while doing his ridiculous psychological tests. At one point he actually says, “Remember: What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” I laughed out loud at that part.

  99. No. No, the fox is a reaaaallly disturbed fan of “Get Smart”, and was saying “K.A.O.S Rules”.

    I look forward to seeing how this relates to him (or her) disembowling himself.

    (I’m pretty sure the fox is supposed to be eating a baby that died in her womb; and that the voice is actually supposed to be the actress who played “She”, but slowed down. But it might only be unable to move due to a wound it received, and so is eating itself in desperate starvation.)

    And a great talkback, btw. (As is very often the case around here. {s!})

  100. Incidentally, here’s an amusing YouTube dubbing project for someone: take lines of dialogue from this movie (once it’s on DVD) and dub them into scenes from Spider-Man.

    (The line quoted by Jake suddenly attached itself to some scene from that movie where Osborne is trying to be an earnest ‘father-type’ figure. {g})

    Alternate project: dub Defoe’s dialogue into scenes from _The Last Temptation of Christ_.

  101. I think the fox is talking about progressive Canadian hip-hop star k-os. But he’s delusional because there are several superior progressive Canadian hip-hop stars out there. If he’d said Buck 65, maybe he’d have a point.

  102. I’m really amazed that three people already mentioned Tarkovsky, even without seeing “Antichrist” – that’s a bit more amazing, cause you know, flick’s dedicated to him.

    Also some words on pre-production of “Antichrist”.
    Apparently it was being conceived for more than three years, Lars von Trier vastly explored origin of evil, misogyny, witchcraft, various horror films. He had consultants to do similar kind of things. He even made test shoot with danish actors.
    Everybody knows, the more work is put into pre-production period – the better film comes out.
    And when Lars von Trier creates his film for 3 years, the results are superior than like… McG creating film for 20 years.

    It’s clear to me that HUGE amount of work went into Antichrist, they didn’t just go to that cabin, shoot some stuff in 2 weeks, and threw it out on market, like “From Dusk Till Dawn – 3” for example. There are definitely enormous layers of meaning, hints, messages and details in this film.

    So I’m sure that nobody can completely understand “Antichrist” on the first viewing, except on emotional level and there’s much more to this film than meets the eye. Of course since “Transformers” that phrase means squat anymore, but still)

  103. Dan and CJ: I’m intrigued. I might just have to watch BALLISTIC: ECKS VS SEVER. My worst fear was that the movie would simply be boring. You seem to suggest otherwise. It couldn’t really be worse than DOMINO, could it? Or is that like the naive comment some teenager would make in a horror film before walking into an abandoned slaughterhouse?

    Anyway, I’ll think of it as a hazing ritual into the world of utterly crap movies.

    Vern: I think I speak for more than a few people here when I say that we’ll gladly forgive your lack of appreciation for LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD if you’d grace us with a few remarks about PULSE (KAIRO) and/or SUICIDE CIRCLE/CLUB. If you haven’t seen them, you might find either film a nice palette-cleanser after ANTICHRIST.

  104. Ecks Vs. Sever is indeed as horrible as everyone says it is. I also find it to be very, very boring. It’s completely devoid of even passable story or characters, and the action is very lame. But at the same, it looks pretty slick and expensive, and doesn’t have the kind of amateurish campy appeal that some bad movies have. Anyone who wants to see a bad movie is probably better off watching something from Dr. Boll, as I think they have more clumsy entertainment value, and also tend to offer some trashy nudity and gore to spice things up.

  105. Yeah, I’m afraid I made Ballistic sound a little bit too awesome. It has some seriously cool stuntwork, but it’s nothing that redeems the movie. (Although I gotta admit I wouldn’t put it in the “Worst films ever” section. Compared to REALLY bad movies like, I dunno…”Carnosaurus 3″ or “Die Häupter meiner Lieben” it’s pretty watchable. I would put it more in the “plain and simple boring” section.)

  106. I used to share a huge house with my brother in law who was an Important Artist (in his own opinion) before he moved to NYC to further his Art career. All of the people he hung out with were Artists too and would often bring over their latest 8mm film projects and we’d all be subjected to 20 minutes of boring B&W footage of dead foxes, trees with no leaves on them, faucets dripping, monologues about death, and the like. Afterwards they would all gush about how deep and meaningful it all was and how it was all so fresh and new.

    Then one day Netflix accidentally delivered INCUBUS in the mail instead of whatever we were supposed to get. We figured what the hell let’s watch it and see what it is. Well I am sure all you film nerds know this one but just in case you don’t it is a B&W “horror” movie starring a pre-STAR TREK William Shatner wandering around in fields, woods, etc rambling about demoic possession or something until the final scene where you finally see the Incubus demon itself for about 5 seconds, which is just a goat filmed in closeup (SPOILER). But the best part about the movie is that all of the dialogue is entirely in Esperanto.

    Well I forget my point, but this ANTICHRIST movie sounds kinda like the same artsy stuff that I never really got that was supposed to be so “cutting edge”, when in reality there is nothing new under the sun and some weirdo Italian director did the same shit 50 years ago already, starring WILLIAM SHATNER SPEAKING ESPERANTO. Sorry, you just can’t top that.

  107. Very interesting to hear from the two different camps on this one. I agree with Vern, I never felt involved with the movie or its characters in any way. What’s ultimately a turn-off for me is the director’s elitism in terms of the genre. He claims in interviews to be largely ignorant of mainstream horror films, yet von Trier has clearly seen and borrowed extensively from POSSESSION, DON’T LOOK NOW, LONG WEEKEND and AUDITION. And anybody who’s seen POSSESSION knows that it is a far more intense, thoughtful, unpretentious and flat-out weird and disturbing portrayal of a troubled marriage. And it didn’t even have any chestnuts in it. I respect Charlotte Gainsbourg for wanting to go all out for this one, but if she was familiar with Isabelle Adjani’s performance from that movie she might have thought “Oh I see this kind of thing has already been taken as far as it can go. Guess I’ll pass on the movie.”

    I mean I like Gainsbourg, but does she do anything as mindblowing as this?

    I hadn’t even made the FRIDAY THE 13TH connection, but Vern’s line about getting the laundry done made me shit myself with laughter. And I’m glad the SUMMER OF SAM talking dog was brought up, because that’s immediately what the fox line made me think of – how hilarious that was in Spike Lee’s underrated movie and how it just seemed like a rehash here.

    Was von Trier being serious? I think he was, but he inserted technical jokes into the parts he (correctly) thought wouldn’t work. The slo-mo Chanel commercial B&W. The talking animals. He’s stated that he wants people to hate the movie – give me a break man. It’s a dishonest thing to say, and even if he were being serious why would you make a movie just for people to hate it? So, a failure for me on both those counts. In terms of genuine filmmaking, not only would I say CANDYMAN is more successful, I’d say MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE was more successful. At least that film’s director tried to make a straight horror movie and never once claimed “I actually hate horror movies and this whole thing’s a joke.”

  108. See, maybe that’s why I liked this thing. I generally think Von Treirs is a jerk and his movies tend to be self-conscious in a way which I find distancing and usually boring (sure, there are interesting ideas in there, but if you’re not involved with the film itself then you sit there checking your watch for two hours waiting for him to get done spelling out some basic ideas which could easily have been covered in a 15 minute short). I think a lot of you felt that way about this one.

    But, ANTICHRIST surprised me in that it seemed like the first Von Treirs film I’d seen where I thought he was earnestly trying to make a real movie, not just a meta-exploration of filmmaking themes. Although I’m sure he’s condescending about horror genre films (he’s condescending about EVERYTHING, man, what did we expect?) I did think this was a genuine attempt to make something he thought was gripping and scary. I don’t think the fox or B & W opera porn section or anything else was supposed to be some sort of meta in-joke; I think he really imagined it that way and I think it fits with the vibe of the film he wanted to make. I disagree with solongyoubastard’s claim that his film is particularly derivative of those other films; it’s similar in tone but I think it has a character and meaning all of its own.

    I can easily see why it would seem like a condescending, elitist wank-fest to some folk, and if it had seemed like that to me I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. But to my eyes, it actually seemed like some of of Von Treirs’ most honest work — a weird film genuinely made by a weird guy about the things that scare him. There’s a legitimacy in that which helps me forgive how annoying he is, personally. Maybe he doesn’t like or even “get” most horror films, but in the end I think he made a movie which is coming from the same place as most great horror films; an exploration of the darkest things rattling around his skull.

  109. Antichrist really is a vacuous lump of a film. Totally agree with you, Vern. Clinically uninvolving, a total waste of time.

  110. Not sure where else to post this: Last night IFC did a double feature of The Changeling (1980) and Near Dark, so I got snuggly and watched both for the first time in one sitting. Soooooo good.

    NEAR DARK: Kick-ass. No other words need apply to describe this beautiful slice of Southern-fried crazy. Bill Paxton? Kick-ass. Adrain Pasdar? Kick-ass. LancemotherfuckingHendrikson? Kick-ass. From that first shot of the mosquito getting swatted to that last freeze frame, Near Dark is a legitmately inventive and exciting, an action-horror that works as both, and that is shortly going to sit on my shelf alongside James Cameron and John Carpenter Collections Hopefully sans that asinine Twilight-cover they came up with. Kathryn Bigelow, you magnificently crazy lady, I’d like to buy you a beer. Eric Red? Well, I’ll, uh, I’ll FedEx you one bud, don’t bother coming to my house to get it, that’s not necessary.

    CHANGELING: Prior to watching this movie, I would have to say my favorite haunted house movie was Robert Wise’s The Haunting (my favorite straight-up ghost movie remains Devil’s Backbone) but I think Changeling trumps it. The secret weapon of the movie isn’t so much the masterwork of the sound design and cinematography, but in George C. Scott’s heart-breaking performance. God damn, I’d have to go back and watch some of his other ones, but I can’t remember the guy ever seeming that ‘sad’ in any of his other movies. With The Haunting, I liked the characters enough to want to see them survive, but they did occasionally get on my nerves and annoy me. But with Scott, he seems like a guy who’s suffered so much already, it’s sadistic to subject him to what’s inside that attic. The scene with the little girl going into her bedroom, seeing the dead kid in the water? Are you fucking kidding me? And that scene where George’s partner goes into the attic and the wheelchair starts chasing her should be laugh out loud funny, but my reaction was instead to sit bolt upright and put my hands over my mouth because I really thought this lady was about to buy the farm. Best. Seance. Ever. Seriously, the only thing that topped that scene was the next one with him playing back the tape and realizing he can hear the dead kid on the tape. Jesus Christ. Changeling is a film that is lingering with me, not so much in the sense that I’m pissing myself with fear every time a floorboard creaks, but because it really makes me yearn for more movies like that. Although if every movie was as good as Changeling, Changeling wouldn’t seem as special. And what a rotten shame that’d be.

  111. I know sometimes seeing something from the director/character´s point of view or state of mind is difficult, sometimes it´s impossible, but that doesn´t make this picture crap or shit like you said, i got something out of it, made me think about things and that´s a good movie experience for me.

  112. Dogville, yo!

  113. Cabezon Gutierrez

    January 20th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    How many european movies do you see in a month? I’ve been reading your reviews and I almost didn’t find european films. Keep watching SEAGAL dude. ANTICHRIST is a great movie, not the tipical MAINSTREAM movie, not the tipical film that you can find here

    Cabezón Gutiérrez

  114. Good points Andy but please try to stay at least a little on topic. I know you’re distracted by your recent purchase but there’s alot going on in Antichrist worth discussing in my opinion.

    thanks Andy

  115. This site gets classier by the day.

  116. This site gets classier by the day

  117. I had to click on the link because it sounded like too much of a joke, like a delayed April Fools or something.

    Ugh. It wasn’t.

  118. Andy Booth coming through on the sex top tip.

  119. Jareth Cutestory

    April 4th, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    M. Casey: Is it safe to say that the rubber ass has failed to leave you as satisfied as it did Andy Booth?

  120. ChopperSullivan

    April 5th, 2010 at 2:41 am

    “This sleeve was designed from the results of a huge survey of 70,000 vaginas.” Don’t make fun, we’re dealing with experts here.

  121. I am not sure about this one, after purchasing the fleshlight butt that I saw on the site classicjackass.com I don’t think any other sex toy can match the realistic feel – and that is after using other good masturbators like the Tenga Flip Hole. But I still must say almost none of these sex toys can equal a fleshlight – There is no doubt in my mind, it beats the hell out of most other penis sleeves!

  122. But Andy Booth says that his realistic rubber vaj-ass combo beats any fleshlight. Who am I to believe here? Am I just going to have to go back to fucking real women?

  123. I learned all I need to know on boosting my sexual life from ANTICHRIST, Alaina, thank ye.

  124. LOL. After this she’s gonna go peddle toilet paper in a SALO review somewhere.

  125. It’s where he feels the need to add explanation that he becomes pretentious. Did this movie really need to be called ‘Anti-Christ’, did the setting have to called Eden, did the fox really have to say “Chaos reigns.” – instead of just letting the disturbing view of it eating its own flesh be enough?

    all the other art-house things can be forgiven, even if they’re a bit much…
    (the naked people in the woods, the arms in the tree, the cruelty of nature involving woodland creatures, the extreme sexual violence, and other odd happenings of nature / atmosphere)

    *symbolic* sure, but not less worth criticism than always getting off on and demanding your action movies or your regular old sci-fi and horror to have the same kind of atmosphere and movie magic tricks that you get off on and enjoy

    otherwise, it’s just plain and dull and uninteresting.

    i don’t get the need to bash art-house films because they try to say something or are snooty about thinking they say something

    there can be considered pretentious things about just about any attempt at art, even meat & potatoes genre films

  126. It’s still more interesting than MELANCHOLIA was.

  127. when we talk about what a film means we could be talking about a couple of different things. we could be talking about what the film says about the world around us. or, we could be talking about what the film means to us. in this second sense Halloween does very much have a meaning and we can look at the film’s internal machinery and figure out pretty much exactly how it goes about moving us like it does.

    movies like antichrist are hard not because they are so conceptually demanding but because they follow such a strange logic, and if we want to find out why it moves us that takes a lot of work.

    i dont think anyone needs to demand more from the film simply because it follows a weird logic. its point is to move us. hell, von trier probably only made the thing because this train of images moved him. and honestly, i think von trier is probably one of those very instinctive artists and he himself probably doesnt know why his film affects him the way it does. i remember a quote from picasso that went something like, “i just paint things that i like. its up to them to get along.” i bet von trier’s approach to filmmaking is kind of like that.

  128. I think the problem with Von Trier is that people, quite rightfully, don’t know whether he’s actually being sincere or not. I mean taking into account his often smartassed interviews and stuff like that. I watched an interview with Defoe about ANTICHRIST and he immediately starts defending the movie by saying “No no no, I promise that Lars is being really sincere with this movie.”

    Now I’m perfectly willing to accept that this is a work of sincerity rather than pretension or affectation, but it just doesn’t come off like that to me. This is from someone who von Trier usually plays like a fiddle. I am DOGVILLE’s bitch everytime I watch it (yes, I am the sort of person who rewatches DOGVILLE). And I thought MELANCHOLIA was funny, sad, beautiful, and never uninteresting (targeted @ Broddie (: ). Maybe I watched ANTICHRIST during the wrong phase of the moon or something…both reactions to the film seem totally understandable to me, but I just dint feel the impact with that one. I loved Ms. Gainsbourg’s performance so much in MELANCHOLIA that I might rewatch this one just for more of her…Defoe’s patronizing psychoanalysis talks were good, too.

  129. Looks like von Trier has managed to upset the Cannes audience again, this time with violence in his THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT.

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