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Starring: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg

Director: Lars Von Trier

Writer: Lars Von Trier

Cinematography: Anthony Dodd Mantle

Original Score: N/A

Running Time: 109 Mins. (uncut)

It is always difficult in considering how you should review a film because in truth any film could be looked at in one of a number of ways, for example most films are made to entertain, some and made to inform, yet these are invariably also made to entertain in some way whether it be through shock or spectacle, then you have those films that are seemingly made as pieces of high art, there to provoke thought and very rarely actually intended to “entertain” in the traditional sense of the word. Those films that fall into this particular category are also known by another name, Art-house.

I have to confess I am not a big fan of the Art-house scene, and my love of the form of film stems largely from the enjoyment I derive from them, their entertainment value if you will, which is how I have always rated past films, entertainment value and the achievements that film makes whether it be in acting, script, direction or cinematography. So it was with trepidation I approached Lars Von Trier’s Anti Christ.

Shrouded in controversy, as Von triers films always have been, Anti Christ is already most famous not for any filmic achievements it makes but for the shocking acts found within, heck the BBFC classification comments are going to pull all the wrong people in and surely printing it so large on the poster this is nothing more than a marketing ploy, I foresee walkouts! So “contains real sex and explicit torture and gore”, yes it sounds like Hostel 3, but far from it, these scenes amount to little more than mere minutes, even seconds, of screen time and yes they impact, but not in the torture porn way that Hostel et al implore, we aren’t expected to revel in this torture, in fact quite the opposite. The whole film is designed as a harrowing delve into the human psyche.

Grief, pain and despair, the chapters by which Anti Christ is segregated and they sure don’t get much more accurate than that. Following a couple known simply as man (Dafoe) and woman (Gainsbourg) we see in the epilogue a beautifully shot scene of the couple having sex cut against their son falling to his death in the snow, its black and white and as visually stunning a scene as you will see all year, kudos to Dodd Mantle for following up Slumdog Millionaire with something so different yet as stimulating on the eye.

In attempt to help his wife deal with the boys death her husband takes her to the ironically named Eden, a cabin in the woods where things go from bad to worse and the woman continues in her descent to a total emotional meltdown, to say much more would be to rob the film of its abundant emotional heft. The script itself is not particularly great but the way in which it is delivered by the excellent coupling of Dafoe and Gainsbourg is nothing less than convincing, making the ordeal all the more disturbing to watch.

Exploring themes of womanhood, nature, and the devil it is certainly a film experience that remains with you and it was in Von Triers visuals that I found to of the greatest effect, deer carrying its dead foetus, dead birds adn a fox that baarks “chaos reigns” may sound ridiculous on paper but they certainly left a lasting mark on me, these are the srts of image that were found in the greatest horror films, Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist being the obvious example.

And it is in harking back to the seemingly lost iconography of the types of horror film that used to be made, those that actually did as they were meant to, getting inside your head and screwing around a little bit, getting you thinking and searing the most disturbing of images into your head. On that count Von Trier has succeeded, it’s true, Anti Christ wont be for everyone but if you can want a real horror film then look no further because nothing will get under your skin like this does.

Which brings me full circle to my initial point, that in rating Anti Christ I have looked beyond the normal boundaries of simple entertainment and rated it simply on its merits as a filmic experience designed to do all that I have just explained, and on that basis I can’t reccommend it highly enough, providing you want to be truly disturbed.

VERDICT

Anti Christ transcends the boundaries of genre, and whilst a far from enjoyable or entertaining experience, in the traditional sense of the word, it is the first proper horror film in quite some time and will undoubtedly affect those who can and wish to stomach its psychological delving and scorching imagery.

grade-b

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