Antichrist – Lars von Trier


An accident happens during sexual intercourse between a man and a woman then medical treatment is refused by the man in treating the woman’s grief and sense of guilt. Finally, both of them go to the woods where he thinks she can overcome the trauma.

This way Lars von Trier unleashes medieval fear upon his characters and upon us. The forest is the ultimate alien space in the medieval Christian imaginary, the most feared one. Those who entered the forest or lived by the forest were feared, outcasts. Embracing nature was a first sign of being astray from Christian rules, a sign of witchcraft. Medicine itself was seen as evil, illness was believed to be sent by God as punishment. Not so long ago – some of us still believe that – mental illness was seen as demonic possession, weakness of character or lack of common sense.

Lars von Trier places his two characters in the middle of the forest and isolates them from their cerebrum. Repeated shots of her and, towards the end, his back head (cerebellum and brain stem) leads to this conclusion. The old brain, where fear, dominance, reflexes, unconsciousness lie is what drives the two characters through a horrible experience. Their journey is telling us the archetypal story about man and his first encounter with “otherness”, which is not the wild beast he has to hunt down for his own protection, nor natural disasters, these are far from being his equal enemies – these probably made him imagine the gods – but the woman. So close and yet so far he had to tame her in order not to fear her.

But these are not served the easy way. The movie’s discourse is based on medieval Christian judgments and misogyny and it is launched on at least two channels. His attitude towards her is emblematic for the treatment of women by men in history: “dominant but benevolent”. This channel is the wicked one, because it is in focus and that makes it seem rational. The other channel is the tricky one and is led by her. She is the patient, worthy of compassion up until she utters the ideas of the ancient believes on nature and woman’s nature. She becomes scary; suddenly her sexuality is demonic and irrational. The impact of a misogynistic discourse held by a woman is quite unsettling. Does she really think what she’s saying or is she provoking a reaction in the man who clings to his rationality? But is he really rational? Now she doesn’t seem a traumatized person anymore but a possessed one, don’t you think, dear Moses, Christian and Farouk? Towards the end, even if the story does not literally transcend the boundaries of medieval Christian believes, we can sense archetypes that are reasoning with all patriarchal believes.

Antichrist is what I expected a movie directed by Lars von Trier to be; an introspection in humanity. It is hard to face it, hard to stay distant from it because it works like a mirror. What does the fear of “otherness” have to do with Antichrist? Probably everything. Lars von Trier stylishly opens and closes the movie in black and white and slow motion. He even uses the same musical theme, but that is not for style but for another thing to chew on: Freedom.

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