Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Oct 1/3: Lars von Trier's ANTICHRIST at VIFF

I approach this one with dread and fascination. DOGVILLE was very tough going, but ended up among my top three favourite films ever, alongside TENDER MERCIES and MAGNOLIA. MANDERLAY was Von Trier's sequel, the second in a proposed trilogy, and a bitter, galling disappointment: the precision, restraint, and artistry were blunted or gone completely, and what remained seemed the exploitative self-indulgence that detractors had seen all along in DOGVILLE. Von Trier then entered a period of clinical depression, and apart from the cheeky screenplay he contributed to the Thomas Vinterberg's DEAR WENDY, we heard nothing from the God-Obsessed Danish Bad Boy.

Until Cannes Festival 2009. And the coming of ANTICHRIST.

By all accounts, a very difficult film. With the same sort of divided response evoked by the director's last two films - one of which I admire wholeheartedly, the other of which I would go so far as to say I detest. Because of what I saw in DOGVILLE, I'm going to risk this one - sometimes this guy serves up Transcendent soul food - but because of MANDERLAY, I'm quite prepared to leave the theatre as occasion demands.

Lars is back. And going to the movies just got exciting again...

(Denmark, 2009, 109 mins, 35mm)
Special Presentation | Thu Oct 1, 9:45pm | Sat Oct 3, 11am

Official Film Website

Lars von Trier. Antichrist. Such is the title card launching the Great Dane's self-acknowledged incursion into the recesses of his warped psychology, a succès de scandal at this year's Cannes and a film destined to resonate for decades to come.

When we first see the protagonists, Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg (their names, unspecified--"She" and "He" in the credits), they are engaged in carnal acts more suitable to beasts than humans; paying little attention to their toddler, he plummets out the window. She, quite understandably scarred, plunges into typical von Trierian madness; he, a psychotherapist, takes her case into his own hands. Off they venture into the verdant woods to an isolated cabin for treatment, where she spent much time earlier writing a thesis on witches and misogyny. And then the fun begins.

Much has already been made of von Trier's problems with clinical depression; he makes no secret that Antichrist results from his own failed therapy, and he's sensationally puked it all out there for his viewers to lap up like starved voracious hounds sniffing after fresh blood. And oh, is there fresh blood! Not for the queasy, Antichrist is the closest von Trier has come to pure horror, and in his nightmarish vision of good and evil, the battle of the sexes traces back to the beginning of time and will stretch until the end of days. The forest of Antichrist is no Garden of Eden, and this is not your parents' marriage.

VIFF Program Notes

PS I didn't mention von Trier's previous two films, both nasty, both - for some viewers - transcendent. BREAKING THE WAVES I've not yet seen, believe it or not. Here's a review of DANCER IN THE DARK And of course, there's all the von Trier you could want at good ol' Videomatica.

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