Lars von Trier's latest film Antichrist was the talk of the town at the Cannes Film Festival this year. It split audiences, some admiring its artistic style and cinematography, others flat-out despising it for its display of extreme bloody violence and explicit sex (the word "abomination" has even been used to describe it). The film, then, has a lot to live up to in terms of shock factor with such a reputation – good or bad.
Although I didn't absolutely, wretchedly despise Antichrist, I still nonetheless fall on the "hate" side of the fence. This is a vile film filled with pointless, meaningless, gratuitous violence and sex scenes that redefine the dictionary definition of the word "explicit." It's very well put together, but I'm sorry, this is pretentiousness hitting a whole new level.
After the accidental death of their son, a couple try to deal with the problems that such a loss brings. The wife in particular takes her son's death hard, and develops certain mental problems. To help her get over them, the husband suggests a trip to a log cabin the woods where his wife once went to write her thesis and whilst there became afraid of the nature that surrounded her. Told in segments, book-ended with a prologue and epilogue, Antichrist delves into the darker side of nature both outside and within, with shocking results.
With Antichrist, Lars von Trier seems to be trying to make some sort of profound statement. But just what that statement is is hard to see amongst the sea of overly long, confusing sequences (which are hard to discern as real or imagined), raw sex scenes, and extreme bloody violence (torture). What starts off as a tragic tale of a man and woman's grief over losing a child ultimately turns into a tactless, pointless display of violent torture that makes Eli Roth's Hostel feel like a kids' movie.
Anything interesting that the film may have to say is shrouded by a distracting pretentiousness and intermittent explicit sex scenes (which border on pure pornography) that serve no purpose other than to compete with the violence on the shock meter. An elegant, super slow-motion prologue - which involves a child falling to his death whilst his parents make love in the other room, oblivious - sets things up as apparently tasteful. But it's not long before von Trier shows his true colours and intentions with this piece, as our elegant opening is interrupted by a hardcore insertion shot. If you can watch that and not be at least a little shocked, then what's to come later on in the film should get you (if not, I applaud you). This is like David Lynch's Blue Velvet without the sophistication, or Takashi Miike's Audition without a point.