When I heard about the movie Antichrist written and directed by Lars Von Trier about few months ago, I knew I had to see it.
I remember being quite impressed by his dogme film The Idiots (1998) a few years back( In this film a bunch of people act out their inner idiots and walk around fooling everyone they are mentally challenged.)
The Antichrist didn’t disappoint me either, disregarding the fact that I left the theater with a rather disturbed feeling. Even so, that feeling later turned into something enlightening.
When I came to the IFC, I asked a ticket guy if he saw the film, he said yes and confirmed it was very horrifying, he even gave me a guide which warned the movie goers when to look away just in case; the graphical images of self-inflicted clitoridectomy, blood masturbation, pornography , dead rotten animals, diabolical photo images can be quite traumatizing.
In brief, this is a story about a grieving couple that loses their son who accidentally tumbles out the window while they passionately make love. The couple is referred as He or She, no names.
This film develops as She ( Charlotte Gainsburg) is grieving deeply over her lost son, filled with guilt and inability to enjoy sex anymore ( in a normal way), she also grows in anger towards herself and later to her husband. He( William Dafoe) is a patient husband and therapist who is trying to help her assuage the pain. He uses various therapeutical modalities like hypnosis, role playing and etc. Nothing seems to work, instead making her agony more intense. She becomes psychotic and violent. Graphical disgusting images visually intensify the horror of the film as we watch Her grow in immense anger. She bolts a millstone to his leg, he escapes, she finds him and tries to berry him alive.
As a viewer I found myself filling up with anger towards that woman, something visceral inside me that wanted to tear her apart. But He continued to be patient, he wouldn’t fight her. The next morning they return to the cabin. He just lays next to her and touching her gently after all the physical pain she caused him. He looks her in the eyes and asks lovingly “ Were you trying to kill me?” She hit him again and then neurotically cut one part of her own body. Laying near the wall in blood it looks as if this sick woman is finally dead. He opens his eyes, takes out the millstone, he grabs her by the neck, pushes to the wall and brutally suffocates her to death. At this point I experienced mixed feelings. Finally the bitch (sorry) is dead. However I was disappointed in Him. He was the kindest man till the very end of the film. I felt that He lost. He did not withstand the trial of anger. Evil won in this film through his last action. In other words, if He had a Christ –like nature no matter how much anger She directed towards him (tortured physically and emotionally), he would have forgiven her. This is a non-violent pacifist nature of Christ. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.”
My father asked me, so what would you do if you were Him? I said, well, I would tie this woman with ropes and carry her to the psychiatric ward. But, that’s easy to say for anyone who doesn’t experience the physical torture as He did in Antichrist.
What I think is very ironic though, is that William Dafoe played Jesus Christ in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and 21 years later he plays a character in Antichrist (2009) who succumbs to the antichrist nature within himself when slapping the cheek of the one who struck him.
I think this irony is an allegory whether von Trier meant it or not. This is an allegory signifying the human nature, inseparably consisting of the two opposites like in the actor William Dafoe who played two opposites in two different films.
I wonder, what it’s like to have a character without any ego whatsoever? That’s not human I guess…or it is just a total bliss.