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With: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Written by: Lars von Trier
Directed by: Lars von Trier
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 109
Date: 05/18/2009

Antichrist (2009)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Lars von Trier conjures up some of his most shocking and effective imagery for this, his first full-out exploitation film. (If it had been made in the 1970s, it would have been a "grindhouse" film.) The trouble is that critics at Cannes have already fallen all over themselves praising it as a kind of legitimate, groundbreaking masterpiece. It's none of those things, but if you can crawl out from under the hype, it definitely works in a kind of mad, ridiculous way.

In extreme slow motion, a man (Willem Dafoe) makes love to his wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) while their little boy escapes from his crib, climbs up on a desk and falls out a high window to his death. Understandably, the woman has a hard time coping, so the man -- a psychologist -- decides that they should get away to their remote, rural cabin, dubbed "Eden." Once there they begin to torment one another, he in an effort to "treat" her, and she in an effort -- apparently -- to destroy him.

Some of the things they do to one another will make you squirm, but some of the other imagery will make you scratch your head -- or laugh. I couldn't figure out what von Trier's ultimate point was; he talks about women being inherently evil, but I'm not sure if he was supporting or refuting that idea. (Given the way he usually features prominent female roles in films like Medea, Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark, but smacks these women around, it's hard to guess.) Regardless, if you've got a strong stomach and are looking for something demented and emotionally intense, look no further.

In 2010, the Criterion Collection released a spectacular-looking Blu-Ray. Extras include a commentary track with von Trier, behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and footage from Cannes. Ian Christie provides the liner notes.

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