One of the best movies I’ve seen recently is Lars von Trier’s Antichrist from 2009, starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, a truly unique and provocative experience. It’s almost impossible to describe what this film is like, or “about.” It’s like a slow-moving, beautiful, irresistible nightmare. I would describe it as psychological/surreal arty horror.
The movie is divided into four chapters, titled “Grief,” “Pain (Chaos Reigns),” “Despair (Gynocide),” and “The Three Beggars.” It tells the story of a nameless couple whose child dies in an accident, and who subsequently go to a cabin in the woods to cope with the mother’s trauma. The film seems divided into two distinct parts, very different in terms of what they give away about the story. In the first part, it seems very much as if the movie is really simply about her boyfriend-cum-psychologist trying to help her overcome her anxiety and panic attacks. Nothing that happens in the first part isn’t within the realm of reality. Once they move to the cabin, strange things begin to occur, and the movie shifts into a more surreal, nightmarish atmosphere, gradually building in horror until it reaches a fever pitch.
The cinematography is absolutely beautiful. It is worth watching for that alone. Overall the movie is eerie, highly atmospheric, erotic, intense and visceral, bizarre and gorgeous. It deals with the occult but not nearly in a literal fashion. It has these lovely scenes of surreal, disturbing beauty, like the piles of pale limbs and naked bodies entwined with tree roots in the promotional image above. Antichrist is a strange gem, mysterious, powerful, and profoundly psychological.