9 First Impressions of the Instant Classic Antichrist
While our man in Cannes had a look at Lars von Trier's incendiary, extraordinary Antichrist, I couldn't help but chase it down for my own look this afternoon as my first film in Toronto. It's all downhill from here, I think; von Trier's tale of anonymous He (TIFF's busiest man Willem Dafoe), She (a fearless, unforgettable Charlotte Gainsbourg) and the bloody dead-end of their love lives up to the gross-out hype promised since spring. And though it's probably a film to which no single review can possibly do justice, those first impressions are a good start. Nine of mine (and some spoilers, sorry) after the jump.
9. This could very easily be the best-directed, best-acted, most beautifully photographed film of the year. That it will not likely merit so much as cursory Academy consideration is merely reason #3,807 the Oscars are an illegitimate, specious bunch of horseshit. And yet they transfix me. What am I to do?
8. Of all the invective, hype and controversy to date surrounding Antichrist's final act, it deserves mentioning just how genuinely suspenseful it is. It turns out, thank God, that there are a few spoilers yet to be revealed, and I won't be doing it here.
7. Is the dead kid actually the couple's son, or just that of Gainsbourg's character? That would explain the disparity in grieving much better than von Trier would seem to have us believe -- that the man (a therapist by trade) simply processes the aftermath in a rational way. He does cry at the boy's funeral, but beyond that, it seems a much more interesting premise to believe He simply isn't the boy's father. The log line simply cites a couple who heads off to the woods, "where they hope to repair their broken hearts and their troubled marriage." Has von Trier has addressed this in interviews? If so, I almost don't want to know; the Stepfather Theory is so much more intriguing to me.
6. If my significant other told me in the midst of my grieving, "Remember: What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve," I would probably crush his balls, too.
5. Oh, so that's what a stillborn deer dangling from its mother's womb looks like.
4. If you're one of those people who perceives Lars von Trier as perhaps contemporary cinema's most misogynist filmmaker, I've got news for you: You're probably right. He's pretty much got it in for everyone, though, if it's any consolation. I actually thought for a while that he was turning over a pro-woman leaf, often justifying She's revulsion at her treatment by men, and her husband in particular. But She reveals a self-loathing (hell, a gender-loathing) in which von Trier invests too much of the film's intellect to be perceived as much else. But then there's the final shot, which I won't give away; tell me if I'm wrong once you've seen it.
3. I haven't squirmed like this in a movie since James Duval and Rose McGowan were met with garden shears and a Virgin Mary in The Doom Generation.
2. The introduction is just as gorgeous as you've heard, but is it wrong of me to be more tore up over the teddy bear smacking the ground than I was about the kid?
1. Willem Dafoe may be the first-ever actor to have two films in one year in which he shares scenes with a talking fox. And unless the Fantastic Mr. Fox growls "Chaos reigns!" after chewing his belly open, I think I'll prefer this.