Wednesday, January 25, 2012

One Minute Review - Antichrist

A lot has been written about Lars Von Trier's Antichrist. Some of it has been good, some bad but most has been written with head-scratching indifference. So much so that I'm surprised I have yet to find anyone who has described it as "flawed" (although, granted, I haven't looked very hard.)

But can anyone, even it's most vehement detractors, openly admit that they think Von Trier turned in anything less than exactly the movie he set out to make in Antichrist? That's it. Game over. The artist has already won. No thoughtless declaration of torture porn, excessive sex or art simply for the sake of art, beyond the point of the film's actual release into our viewing hands matters much. In it's own personal sense then, Antichrist is kind of perfect.

The problem with the film is that, Von Trier, as gifted a visual artist and provocateur as, for better or worse, there has ever been, has released one of the few movies that doesn't require an audience. The success of the film is in it's making. The only audience required to see it are those who continue to need proof that movies like this can still be made.

There is, of course, I'm sure, some meaning beneath this tale of a couple who, after the death of their child, retreat to a cabin in the woods in hopes of mending themselves only to slowly destroy each other both mentally and physically. What it is, I'm not sure. And that's the flaw. The medium is most certainly the message in the case of Antichrist. To rip it apart and burrow deeper inside of it is to tear a hole in the staggering beauty and power of it's immediate surface appeal. Antichrist is not so much a film to be understood as to have itself forced upon you. You see it because you want to know if the tree really does make a sound when it falls in the woods.

Most of that strange hypnotic whatever it is (I deemed it beauty but I'm not sure that's the correct word, maybe aura is better), can be attributed to Von Trier's being influenced by the Russian master Andrey Tarkovsky (to which Antichrist is dedicated).

Much like Tarkovsky's work, Antichrist seems to exist in the real world because it revolves around human people played by faces we recognize, and yet there isn't a single frame that in any way resembles any real place on this Earth. The one definitive difference is that Tarkovsky's ideas were worth exploring and his journey's worth taking. Leaving his films left you feeling enlightened. Leaving Antichrist leaves you feeling battered and in need of a glass of water.

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