Fear in a Forest of Despair

ANTICHRIST

Fear in a forest of imaginary angst and abysmal despair….

So the controversial Danish director Lars Von Trier premiered his new film Anti-Christ at the Cannes film festival in May 2009, where it was alternately jeered and praised. I was fortunate enough to catch a late screening of the film at the Durban International Film Festival http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ in July, knowing that Anti-Christ due to its explicit content and supreme visual style would not make the Cinema Nouveau circuit by any stretch of the imagination and surely I was not disappointed in any expectations of controversy.

No love lost in this demonic garden...

No love lost in this demonic garden…

Anti-Christ featuring a powerful performance by Charlotte Gainsbourg who received a best actress at Cannes and an equally disturbing performance by Willem Dafoe as a couple in Washington state who due to the tragic death of their child suffer a breakdown of psychological emotional and physical proportions second to none. The film, like Dogville is stylised and divided into chapters and while initially you wonder what the fuss is about, you soon find yourself watching explicit porno-graphic images coupled with some more violent and deeply disturbing sequences of self-mutilation as the protagonists marriage unravels to a point of utter destruction towards the final act. The disturbing scenes set in a forest lodge where all the couples fears and angers can be played out to the edge of insanity is part horror film reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project and part The War of the Roses without the trappings of material possessions. Dafoe, as  psychologist and father questions his wife after her initial mental breakdown and says “What is your greatest fear?”

Her answer is “Being alone in the Forest”.

Facing those fears lead the couple on a downward psychological and often disturbing journey into the depths of their own depravity and soon any defiance of social conventions are evident and fulfilled where in this destruction only nature takes precedence. Is this the proverbial tale of Adam and Eve fighting in an imaginary Garden of Eden? No, its more like after they have been corrupted and expelled into the wilderness of their own disintegration, violence and abysmal despair.

*

Anti-Christ is not for the faint-hearted and will definitely cause debate, sometimes derision and certain denouncement. Lars von Trier known for his unusual eccentricities like a fear of flying and being raised by a family of nudists is show to demonstrate all these idiosyncrasies in his uncompromising and thought-provoking style.

If you enjoyed Dogville or Breaking the Waves, you might be curious to watch Anti-Christ, but warnings abound as to its explicit content and offensive treatment of the destruction of a marriage. As for his notoriety that is secure, von Trier as director will continually attract art-house cinema-goers and actors who wish to work with an auteur that will expectantly push the boundaries of their craft in a Brechtian and creative way.

The fact that von Trier has attracted big stars to his films like Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Emily Watson and Willem Dafoe is testament to his allure as a stylish and innovatively unconventional director, a Danish version of David Lynch with far more intensity and stark realism…. after all both Lynch and von Trier managed to garner huge attention at festivals around the world and their movies whether it be Blue Velvet or Anti-Christ will be classics of the controversial kind. As for Willem Dafoe, that truly enigmatic actor, who attracted critical praise in Shadow of a Vampire, has now appeared in both a von Trier and a David Lynch film. Who can forget that trailer park, leather clad seduction sequence that Dafoe performed with sinister dedication to the naive Laura Dern in Wild at Heart?

Luscious Lula saved by the interminable Sailor

Luscious Lula saved by the interminable Sailor

 

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