He (Williem Defoe) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) are having wild sex. They’re doing it against the bathroom wall, against the washing machine, on the floor, on the bed sincerely letting delicate objects in the proximity, topple over and break. Meanwhile, their little son is just getting out of his cradle with his eyes on the falling snow outside and climbs onto the table beside the window. Her eyes are on the boy but having been penetrated with full force for the last few minutes, she’s on the verge of climax. To the orgasm she succumbs, letting her beloved infant roll over and fall head first onto the curb. Here, ends the prologue.
The event described above doesn’t end there. The aftermath is one with complex ramifications. He expresses grief over the loss of his child and chooses to move on. She feels grief accompanied by guilt. She saw it happen and believes that she could’ve chosen other than her own sexual gratification. A month’s stay at the hospital hasn’t improved her condition. The doctor calls She’s grief atypical. She’s husband, He, a psychologist believes he has the ability to treat her without medication. In principle, He agrees with the doctor that a psychologist shouldn’t treat his own family but in this case, He doesn’t think another psychologist could know her better than he does. Thus embarks their psychotherapeutic journey. He keeps his relationship with She on a professional level letting her deal with her grief alone. When she needs a husband to grieve with over the death of their child, He chooses to escape from his own grief by diverting his attention to his work, with She being the object of dissection, irregardless of her own skepticism toward psychotherapy. What happened to helping you help yourself?
The rest of the film is divided into four chapters- Grief, Pain, Despair and (the) Epilogue. Addressing her fears brings them to a cabin lodged inside the woods called Eden. She and her son were here the previous summer to spend some quality time letting her focus the rest on a thesis, one that initially intended to be critical of the evil against women. Burying herself into it, She sees herself reaching an unpleasant conclusion and abandons it. But, the damage has already been done. Psychotherapy brings her to resume it. His desperation to cure her causes him to oscillate between husband and therapist, being judgemental as the former and condescending as the latter. He dismisses her visions by saying “Under fear, your thoughts distort reality. Not the other way around.” Enraged by his domineering ‘smart therapist replies’, she slowly inches toward the brink of sanity. Chaos Reigns.
Antichrist is the most unsettling film that I’ve seen. The beautiful imagery (Kudos to Anthony Dodd Mantle) seizes the distasteful, detestable nature of its characters. There’s no heart or soul in the film. Lars Von Trier, who went through a series of depression while making the film, has infused the screenplay with nihilism and cynicism. While translating it on screen, he doesn’t just refuse to side with his characters but treats them with repugnance. The viewer is expected to look at two antagonistic characters (both actors fire on all cylinders) and decide who the Antichrist is. The invisible yet deep characterization enables Antichrist to work as a psychological horror. On another level, it works as a natural horror and can be understood through the film’s use of symbolism. I took the former. On my first viewing, I was caught unaware by a few grotesque scenes (responsible for the fainting of a few viewers at the Cannes film festival). I found great difficulty in reviewing Antichrist. I hated it as much as I appreciated it. Another two viewings changed my perspective letting me see and critique it for being the downer that it is.
Antichrist is riding a full-speed roller coaster, blindfolded, knowing throughout that it will ultimately crash into a boulder. It is not a film to enjoy, but one to endure. I dare you to watch it.
Rating – 9/10