The Pervert, The Feminist and God. (Part Two: ANTICHRIST)

Antichrist received mixed reviews at Cannes. It’s a truly polarising film. On one hand you have got a clinically troubled auteur writing what I immediately thought was a revenge fantasy on his own therapist. On the other, you have the spectacle of the macabre. Kind of like Psycho  meets  Saw.

I saw this film on the same weekend as I watched Love Exposure which I wrote about on an earlier blog, and both films made me think differently about three themes that they both address: Perversion, the female psyche, and God. Interestingly, a Listener article on the subject reveals that the film was partly inspired by Japanese horror films. So there you go.

The film’s writer and director, Lars Von Trier, is no stranger to the kind of attack this film has received. He has repeatedly been branded a misogynist and his films have always pushed the envelope on what constitutes good taste. He wrote Antichrist partly to help himself deal with his debilitating depression. He wrote ten pages a day just to give himself a reason to get out of bed. Considering this, many of the attacks that claim he is simply out to shock seem ill-considered.

Perversion: 

The unavoidable first topic that will arise when any two people discuss this film is the excruciating violence, sexual explicitness, and degradation. What is it about this film that makes it necessary? Is it necessary at all? Does this alter our perception of the main theme of the film? These and other questions immediately jump to the front of the mind. Having just watched Love Exposure gave me a little bit of perspective on this though. In Love Exposure, perversion is seen to be the ultimate, original sin. If you’ll recall the female character’s thesis on witchcraft in 16th Century for a moment, you’ll remember that her realisation was that if women were only going to end up being tortured and killed anyway, then they might as well commit evil acts so that their own suffering is not without cause. The parallels here with Love Exposure’s Yu, who commits sins simply so that he can have something to confess are uncanny. That both films use perversion as a means to articulate this point are too astonishing to avoid.

God:


Very easily then we can relate this back to religion. Despite the film’s title, religion isn’t really the primary focus of the day here. But there are pointers which cannot be avoided. A man and a woman in a garden called Eden. The woman becomes evil etc. these pointers are here I would argue as a result of the author’s inability to use religion as a means to conquer his own battle with depression and mental illness. I would contest that Von Trier has (and stop me if I sound like Jaques Lacan) committed his demons to paper in a sort of very public self-exorcism. This is probably another reason why the film needed to be so guesome.

Females:

The film begins with a classic male dominated storyline. The ‘all knowing’ male tries to ‘cure’ his suffering woman who cannot handle her grief. The female though ends up wielding huge amount of suffering over the man. In horror films, classically speaking, it is the woman who squeals in terror, but throughout the film the woman violently asserts her dominance over the man. Just like the female characters in Love Exposure dominate the men. For about the last 15 minutes I have been trying to finish this paragraph in a way that both continues this train of thinking cohesively and also explain the ending where the man leaves the garden, crowded by souls having strangled the woman. And I have just now decided that even in death the woman has exerted her power over the man. She has warranted her inevitable death. She believed that as a woman, she must be killed, but she had to invoke the killing.

In this film then, I believe Von Trier has written himself as the female lead. Something to think about.

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