02 November 2009

Review: Antichrist

I've taken some time, since I've seen the film, to fully digest Antichrist - or, if not fully, then at least better than may have some other reviewers who were quick with the instinctual exclamations but lacking of the intellectual fervor that this film, as all others, deserves. Mr. von Trier has clearly tried to take his film-making to a very personal place with this obviously purgative venture into ethereal imagery and caustic relationships. The protagonistic couple, played admirably for their endurance by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, rub up against one another and also against their inhabited world with increasing friction that eventually surpasses the stimulating and transgresses into the chagrinning, irritating, and ultimately burning acts of animate bodies in conflict. Against one another they rub and fight and contrive scenarios that, to the non-endemic eye, read like hallucinated vorteces of sadomasochistic indulgence and occultural pain but, to the endemic, feel like natural off-shoots of deep emotional seeds, as if thick and woody flowers were grown out, from within, and shaped in so doing by the pressurized nature of their containers. While such story-telling and investigation are of course powerful and indeed shocking at times, the ending effect is one that does include beauty before it leaps into arcane over-indulgence and morbid inevitabilities. Mr. Anthony Dod Mantle's refulgent cinematography, albeit hyper-stylized, rescues itself from the edge many times and in the end constructs a visual field that, though rapt and sometimes wreckless, finds sense in the hectic screenplay. By frequently literally slowing the action down to near clinical observations of scenes in progress - especially the film's prologue and epilogue - he trains his camera to slice and cleave an inlet for its viewers through which they may see, feel, and access the tightly wound, balled, and precarious knots of fervor and intimacy upon which the entirety of the action rests; and, though meagre, such an inlet is just enough for me to commend him for the achievement by listing him at right with those Under Consideration for the best of the year in their respective film-making categories. I include there also Ms. Gainsbourg and Mr. Dafoe, who though not especially strong nevertheless admirably somehow resist complete over-indulgence and wrecklessness in their performances as well, firming up the heart of the piece that, though anomalously conformed, beats still. However, I do not include any other creator of the film, including Mr. von Trier himself, whose work though intriguing here I think leaves too much heart - and not quite enough head - on the table.

Grade: B: Saved by its tempering hands, this film risks tipping itself out of its whirl with too daring a proclivity to do so for me to call it any more or any less.

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