2009 // Denmark // Lars von Trier // March 19, 2010 Format: Netflix Instant
For me, Lars von Trier's films, whatever their merits, have never begged for a second viewing. Therefore, I suppose it's an achievement of some kind that Antichrist yowled out for another look. My first foray into the film's ghastly spectacle of physical and emotional cruelty left me eroded and shaken, but on a second visit the film seems softer, its lurid edginess and uncanny chills less impactful. The excellent sound design is, if anything, more striking, but the emotional scorching of that first viewing simply cannot be replicated. That said, the virtues of the film's entire approach--forcefully sociological, mythically literate, and yet strangely aloof--seem even plainer to me now. What makes Antichrist audacious isn't its shocking content, but von Trier's determination to make a horror film that neither coyly conceals its psychological subject matter nor concerns itself with funhouse entertainments. Which means that it barely qualifies as a horror film at all, despite the fact that it traffics in the genre's customary currency of dread and revulsion. Whether von Trier has a "woman problem" or not, Antichrist strikes me as the most provocative and challenging film about gender in years. Charlotte Gainsbourg might have won at Cannes, but it's Willem Dafoe's arrogant and smoothly monstrous He that stands out as the film's most memorable and disquieting creation. That notorious fox is strictly a runner-up.