Lars von Trier regrouped following the critical and commercial shrug which greeted Manderlay. Plans to complete his “USA: Land of Opportunity” trilogy were scratched. Perhaps von Trier had overreached by repeating himself. The demon dog of Danish film then took a left turn with 2006′s Direktøren for det hele/The Boss it All, crafting a sly boardroom comedy with a novel Automavision process that only von Trier will ever use. Now he’s whiplashing back with the psychological horror film Antichrist, which narrows his focus down to a man, a woman, and the scary primeval woods.
Charlotte Gainsbourg and her partner Willem Dafoe are using hypnosis to try and get through some unspecified trauma. Gainsbourg imagines what Dafoe calls an “Eden,” a cabin in the middle of a rich and damp forest. After a discussion where Dafoe wonders if Gainsbourg is on “too much medication,” the couple go hiking in similar surroundings. Gainsbourg is spooked when she sees they are staying in an identical cabin and that this is the landscape of her dreams. What follows seems like a Blair Witch Project if it had been written by August Strindberg.
Von Trier is supposedly experimenting with yet another new visual process for this film. The muted colors and dense fog, however, recall the computer-treated interludes of Breaking the Waves. Again, we have a woman with a suffering face and a slightly distant husband. When Defoe reacts to Gainsbourg’s freak-outs, he does with that Willem Dafoe thing where the words don’t feel heartfelt. The viewer may also wonder what Gainsbourg, who previously played a abused spouse in I’m Not There, is doing married to Bobby Peru. The man is his own alienation effect.
The money shot we’ve already seen: the couple making love beneath a tree, with hands springing from the roots. The hands appear to reference Roman Polanski‘s Repulsion, the classic account of a beautiful woman’s mental disintegration in foreign surroundings. It’s also an indication that in this two-hander, Mother Nature is an omnipresent third character–and it will be interesting to see if von Trier dares to make the Great Wide Open claustrophobic. The trailer’s final shot is the image that will stick in audience’s heads, but one gets the feeling the real horror of Antichrist will come from what people can do to each other and to themselves.
Of course, the film is open to the criticism that it’s too chic. There are the handsome leads, the necessary dollop of sex, and the mumbled dialogue. The ghost of another movie clings to Antichrist, too. Robert Altman‘s 1972 Images treated the madness of a woman living in a lonely Scottish mansion with her American husband, Rene Auberjonois. Auberjonois and Dafoe share that ambiguous gender–they’re both feminized males. Images, with its use of filters, diffusion and reflection, is also primarily about the deceptions of the picture itself. This is one of von Trier’s preoccupations, as anyone who has lamented that the process has trumped the theme in his films knows.
Von Trier wrote Antichrist with writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen, who penned scripts for the Dogme films Mifune and The King is Alive. He also worked with Andrea Arnold on her critically acclaimed CCTV film Red Road. The movie was filmed in Germany by Anthony Dod Mantle, who lensed von Trier’s Dogville and won the Academy Award for Slumdog Millionaire. Editor Anders Refn cut Breaking the Waves and has acted as a second unit director for von Trier in the past. The production is designed by Karl Juliusson, who last worked with Von Trier on Dancer in the Dark. Sound is by Kristian Eidnes Andersen, who first worked with von Trier on the 1994 TV series Riget.
Tags: Slumdog Millionaire, I'm Not There, Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Antichrist, Lars von Trier, Dogville, Manderlay, Direktøren for det hele, The Boss it All, Blair Witch Project, August Strindberg, Roman Polanski, Repulsion, Anders Thomas Jensen, Mifune, The King is Alive, Andrea Arnold, Red Road, Anthony Dod Mantle, Anders Refn, Breaking the Waves, Karl Juliusson, Dancer in the Dark, Kristian Eidnes Andersen, Riget, Robert Altman, Images, Rene Auberjonois