Cannes 2009 Review: Lars von Trier's Antichrist

May 17, 2009

Lars von Trier's Antichrist

Am I as screwed up as either of the characters in Antichrist if I say I had a blast watching this? Maybe it was the excitement in the air before it started, or maybe it was the combination of the laughs, shrieks, cheers, and jeers throughout Lars von Trier's latest film, but I think I enjoyed it. See that's the problem - Antichrist is fucked up. In a good way? Or in a bad way? Even I don't know the answer to that question (or maybe that's something you'll decide for yourself), but I can tell you it's one hell of an exhilarating experience watching this. My gut feeling coming out of it is that I actually liked it, screwed up or not.

I don't want to say anything about what happens in this. Part of the experience is watching it all play out, from the first frame to the last frame. Lars von Trier bookends the story with a prologue and an epilogue, both beautifully conceived and shot exquisitely, and they're essential to getting the full picture. But beyond that, all I'll say is that the story only involves Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a married couple who experience some incredible trauma and then head to their cabin in the woods for therapy. Dafoe is mainly trying to help Gainsbourg, who has the worst problems, but even she can't be fully cured anymore.

The funny thing is that Park Chan-wook, who is known for going to extremes as seen in his Vengeance trilogy, is not the one who went to the extreme this year. Park's Cannes film, Thirst, is tame in comparison to both Bong Joon-ho's new film Mother and von Trier's Antichrist. It's takes a while to get there, but eventually everything goes crazy in Antichrist, and while some will have to turn away, I expect others will lavish in this insanely edgy filmmaking. Von Trier breaks every "rule," but does it in a way that is so beautiful, it's almost hard not to appreciate it. At least, that's exactly what I thought sitting in the theater.

Lars von Trier is a brilliant filmmaker, but he's also fucked up. He's got some personal problems, and some will love seeing him explore those problems through cinema, while some will hate it (right now, I'm for the former). I honestly don't really know what to even think about Antichrist - my mind is still numb from the whole experience. I really expect this to split audiences the same way Michael Haneke's Funny Games does. In fact, I'm very curious to see Antichrist again, because I may have a completely different interpretation the second time around. So be on the look out for that review, as I'll probably have way more to say then.

Cannes Rating: 8ish out of 10

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Reader Feedback - 24 Comments


Love the "8ish" haha.

Itri on May 17, 2009


So by comparing it to "Funny Games" is the tone similar? I'm very excited for this and am curious what Von Trier has to "say" about Americans this time.

Boxoffice Marco on May 17, 2009


This is not so much a review as a cop-out.

J.J.J.J. Jamison on May 17, 2009


Is it a true horror story? Or a drama with fucked up things happening?

Fuelbot on May 17, 2009


sweet I can't wait

DoomCanoe on May 17, 2009


wasnt intrigued before now that you say its fucked up i have to see it

twispious on May 17, 2009


Can't wait for this one!

LINKFX on May 17, 2009


Had me at the screenshot.

Oh JEBUS on May 17, 2009


Alex, I don't think you're screwed up; you're just sleep deprived. Based on what I've heard about this movie's screening (, I'm at a loss for any other rational argument as to how you arrived at an 8 (-ish!) for your rating. Eli Roth has been putting graphically violent garbage like this on movie screens for years now, and it seems like the Cannes folk just let Von Trier get away with it because his name doesn't sound American. In other words, just because a filmmaker thinks something's artistic, doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea to put in a movie. Anyway, I digress. My main reason for this post is to ask this question: After reading that Reuters' article, I can't help but think of the screening of "Medellin" in Entourage, so, and this might be a leap, but do you think this might be the next Troll 2?

Tex on May 17, 2009


Yea I am excited to check this out. It seems different than anything I've seen in a film and it seems like the experience is a big part of the film. I will be catching this once it hits theatres

Dan W on May 17, 2009


All of the above comments are correct... And #9, I think the Cannes audience doesn't like that von Trier puts that "graphically violent" crap in his movies, but that's why I had fun watching this (just like I have fun watching Eli Roth's movies).

Alex Billington on May 18, 2009


Tex, just because it's violent and depraved doesn't mean it can't be artistic. You can't be surprised that some people like the things you hate. That's the way the world works

Gunde on May 18, 2009


So I'm curious as Hell about this flick. Is it coming to theater or straight to DVD? And when!? 'Cause I need to see this!

Marius on May 18, 2009


Hmm, it's playing here from Wednesday, I think I'll go watch it. Should be interesting at least. 🙂

Chris on May 18, 2009


I'm not a fan of Alex's prose when he writes reviews but I just got back from talking to a friend who also attended Cannes, this sounds right on the money. The classic "what is the purpose of violence" question seems to come up quite a lot.

BahHumbug on May 18, 2009


In Norway, fils are rated 1-6, this film got a "1". Guessing that = it's a great film, can't wait to see this!

David Banner on May 18, 2009


It sounds a lot like Von-Trier has been watching the great Ingmar Bergmans 'The Hour of the Wolf' and 'Persona'

Deano on May 18, 2009


That's a fair enough argument. Thanks for the feedback Alex. And Gunde, I agree with you too. I think violence can have a purpose in any film. Regardless of the story, I think a respective degree of violence is necessary to illustrate the conflict in the story and in effect be artistic. Here, I just think Von Trier went more for power than accuracy. Thanks for the feedback.

Tex on May 18, 2009


that picture is damn sexy

Lacey on May 18, 2009


#18 - You haven't seen the movie, so how can you say what you think about his intentions?

Fuelbot on May 19, 2009


Loved the review and nice to hear an open minded description of the film. If you are as screwed up as the characters, then all the danish reviewers and audencies are fucked aswell. The reviews are exceptionally good and almost all classify antichrist as a masterpiece. I hope all the talk of violence and lame jury anti-prizes don't stop people from going and making their minds up for themselves.

Louise on May 25, 2009


if u're comparing it to Funny Games i'll give it a miss (FG was one bad movie)

david on Aug 28, 2009


I've just come back from seeing this movie, and although I must admit that LvT is a great and a very-very talented artist, sometimes his "dark" side takes over, and then we see the freakish final scenes of "Antichrist". Right in the middle of the film, when the couple arrived in Eden, I asked my husband: "Doesn't it look exactly as Tarkovsky?" He said he was thinking the same. And these were the best scenes of this movie. So, at the end it came to no surprise to us that this movie was dedicated to Tarkovksy, although A. Tarkovsky had never shot such gruesome scenes in his movies, so I don't think he would appreciate the dedication. I must be honest: I cannot see how anyone could want to see this movie for the 2nd time...

Rina on Oct 3, 2009


Fundy Christians are already foaming at the mouth over this movie so it must be worth seeing

DancesWithFascists on Oct 7, 2009

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