Friday, 5 February 2010


Antichrist has been widely reviewed and gossiped about, so even people who haven't seen it have probably made their own mental film of it. 'Antichrist' is a medieval theological view of women, a view the woman in the film is researching, but the research starts to take form in the present. It's the debate about nature: good or bad? On that topic the talking fox, disembowelling itself, has the last word(s): 'Chaos reigns'.

Von Trier aimed to make a 'horror' film, but unlike most horror films, which are made for laughs, Antichrist seems seriously intended. Von Trier is author and director: if you ask an author why a character behaves in a certain way the answer is usually that it's because that's what that character did. We accept that authors don't always control their characters, and authors who write scripts are no different.

At the end you discover that it's dedicated to Andrei Tarkovsky. At first it seems an unlikely pairing, but the similarities become increasingly apparent. The landscape is wild and overgrown, with water running through it. On another level, Tarkovsky's book on film-making is called Sculpting in Time, and Antichrist is marvellously well put together, sequence by sequence, in time, but although Tarkovsky put his characters into extreme situations, he never made a horror film. Antichrist has a soundtrack that's a work of art in itself, and Von Trier remarks that if you put a soundtrack like that to a Tarkovsky film, it could make it seem to be a horror film.

In ancient Greek drama violence was described but never shown, which seems an intelligent choice. Wonders can be done with silicone, but life-like simulation of violence seems more insidious than the real thing as it's a confusing blurring of the boundaries between real and fantasy. In any case we are perfectly aware that the violence isn't real, so why go to great lengths to make it look literally real? It's a dream-like, visionary film, beautifully filmed, beautifully acted, and violence has its place in it, and it's fitted well into the flow of the whole film. But years ago censorship meant that violence could only be suggested, and imaginatively suggested horror can be more uncertain and more unsettling than silicone reality.

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