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An Extremely Early Review Of Lars Von Trier's Horror Film, ANTICHRIST!

Beaks here...

As the new year arrives around the globe, here's a review for a film that ought to make a lot of noise later on in 2009. Being that it's from Lars von Trier and is not due out commercially until late summer/early fall, it's practically guaranteed to be "in competition" at this year's Cannes Film Festival - even if it stinks. Happily, our spy in Europe says that ANTICHRIST (starring the instant box office duo of Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) is another triumph from the Danish auteur - which, of course, is no guarantee that many of you won't hate every frame of it. Our spy also wrote a very long intro, so I'll quickly hand it off to him (if you're scanning, his review of the film doesn't start until the fifth paragraph).

I’ve just seen a very early print of Lars von Trier's next feature, set to premiere on September 11. 2009. A movie that initially annoyed me, when I heard of it, three years ago. Three years ago I was among those who were baffled to hear, that Lars von Trier wasn’t going to complete his latest trilogy right away. Complete and utterly in love with both his Europe trilogy and his Golden Hart trilogy, I was already getting hard by the thought of how he might finish his latest, the American trilogy. Dogville being one of my all-time favorites I initially worried as the mom of a junkie, that he couldn’t continue this trilogy without Kidman. But Manderlay proved that Lars can make anybody act radiantly to a degree were you want buy a rubber finger and cheer as if your life depended on it. Which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s seen Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves or Björks performance in Dancer in the Dark! Also loving Manderlay, and Bryce Dallas Howard in it, I couldn’t wait for the third installment of the Americana trilogy. Was he going to make Wasington with neither Bryce or Nicole, just one of them or perhaps with both? And what would the overall moral point of the trilogy be? So I was very disappointed when I learned he was going to postpone the final chapter, or maybe drop it altogether. Instead of Wasington we were promised a straight forward, no crazy rules or messing about, horror, starring major Hollywood actors. At first the idea bored me, but slowly my disappointment vanished in the hope that this could possibly be the final breakthrough, that would make LvT the household name I’ve always felt he deserves to be. Something that he’s seemed to avoid on purpose through his whole career. After making the Europe Trilogy back in the eighties, where he perfected his esthetic brilliance, Lars was headhunted by Spielberg and the likes to do Hollywood movies. But refusing to direct anything he hadn’t birthed himself, he missed this opportunity to reach a larger audience. And instead of continuing his visual style, that had made him a festival darling, he decided to go in the opposite direction, writing and directing the handheld-shot TV horror-series Riget (the Kingdom). He continued this visual technique in his next feature, Breaking The Waves, which won him the Grand Jury prize at the Cannes Festival. But being pissed he didn’t win the Golden Palm, he famously “dropped” the prize while leaving the stage. While not winning him the prizes he felt it deserved, Breaking the Waves won him a new audience. Still an artsy audience, but larger and certainly more mainstream than his old following. And now the world wanted to show whatever he put out, and therefore he decided to make the second series of Riget for one of the smallest markets on the planet: Danish television. Subsequently he founded “dogme95” and made the intensely brilliant “Idioterne” (the idiots), and after this, the mainstream audiences seemed to have forgotten about him again. Except the likes of me, who were just reaching the right age to begin opening their eyes to less mainstream movies, and were blown away by The Idiots. A movie that was brilliant on so many levels, that you didn’t even have time to fully judge whether you actually liked the movie or not. Inventing Dogme95, a movement all about “spassing” with the conventions of moviemaking, and then writing and directing a movie about people spassing as humans in social context, while not crediting yourself as the director – is just too much for me to even comment on. Then he made Dancer in the Dark, a musical so grim and dark in its themes that it was sure to make anybody depressed. Dancer won him the Golden Palm, and now he was on everybody’s lips again. He got Nicole Kidman for the lead in his next feature, and just when I thought there was no way around getting the mass appeal I felt he deserved, he announced that he was going to let his next trilogy be played out on a soundstage, with chalk outlines as the only set pieces. And at the same time, he decided to call it the American Trilogy, thus pissing off anyone who had been pissed of that Dancer in the Dark took place in America, even though von Trier, due to his phobia of flying, has never been there. It seems there is always some kind of controversy surrounding von Triers movies, which clouds his brilliant subtexts. This always bothered me, although I know that he does this very knowingly. A true provocateur. At the same time, the controversy is what’s fun about being a von Trier fan. So was antichrist going to be any different, although we had been promised a straight forward horror? To anyone who has seen his straight forward comedy (and not many has) The Director of it All from 2006, that question is easy to answer: No. In short, Antichrist is about a psychiatrist, played by Willem Dafoe, who decide to take his wife, played by Charlotte Gainsbourgh, to the one place she fears the most, to help her overcome the grief of their son's accidental death. That place is Eden Forrest, where they have a small cabin, where she once wrote a thesis about the persecution of witches in the middle ages. While trying to understand why such tragedy could happen to them, the couple opens their eyes to the possibility that the nature of the world is to be evil. And more so, that the nature of humans is evil. And without giving away too much, I can tell you that her thesis comes to play a major part in their discovering. And although this was the first screening of Antichrist ever, before any effects, before its initial editing was supposed to end, before any major sound-editing and so on, Lars von Trier's way of showing the evils of nature was extremely beautiful. Never has anything this gruesome been shown in such a poetic way. A beauty I haven’t seen in a von Trier movie since his Europe trilogy. But the movie was also a tour-de-madman, into von Triers viewpoint on the human nature. Although the style was very atypical of late von Trier and very atypical of early von Trier, it sort of mixed the two von Triers, and everything on screen SCREAMED von Trier. Already in the six minute opening sequence of the movie, which was filmed with a high speed camera and shown in super slow motion, black and white images, to opera music, the movie denied itself of any chances of getting an MPAA rating less than NC-17. Initially being just another movie about someone going to a cabin far from civilization and then coming in contact with something supernatural, Trier excels and makes it a beautifully poetic movie, with so much written between the lines that I am not going to pretend that I fully understood it all after this first viewing - much like the before-mentioned The Idiots. Luckily Antichrist also worked on its own terms as a horror movie, and while it didn’t scare me as much as I hoped it would, it made me physically ill, due to gruesome content that borderlines gore, except it seems to artsy to be allowed such a label. But I mean gruesome!! Take Hostel and mix it with The Piano Teacher, and you’re close to an idea of what you have in store. And I am positive that the final edit, and the special effects and sound departments will do the trick, and the fright-factor will be upped for the final cut. In all circumstances, this is a movie to look forward to, if only for the tour-de-madman into the fucked up mind of von Trier that will leave you shaking your head in disbelief of what you are witnessing – even if you’re a LvT fan, who expects the unexpected. Antichrist is a brilliant mixture of the old Trier and the new Trier. Intensely beautiful pictures that speaks more than a thousand words, but also content and subtext that speak a million words of their own. I seriously doubt this film will make him a household name, but I have hopes that this will be one of his biggest hits. The gore alone will make it a hit with certain audiences, but still the story has so much depth and finesse, that it could be a contender for some major awards. Anyways, I can’t wait to see it again. Happy new years from this anonymous Dane.

"HOSTEL meets THE PIANO TEACHER!" There's your pull-quote, future distributor.

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