Antichrist review

Von Trier brings the horror…

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Chances are you either love Lars von Trier or you hate him – and that’s exactly the way he’ll want it.

Whether it’s the emotional cruelty of Breaking The Waves, the manifesto of Dogme ’95 or the clean chalk lines of Dogville, everything he does is designed to provoke. Well he’s really gone and done it this time...

Made to lever himself out of a severe depression, Antichrist is an arthouse horror film, of sorts. Psychological, theological, positively pornographic in its lurid torture scenes (including a DIY female castration), it plays like Strindberg adapted by Eli Roth.

It is, as such, too esoteric to satisfy the gorno crowd, too icky to engage anyone else. Divided into chapters (Grief, Despair, other such nonsense), Antichrist first serves up a preposterous black-and-white prologueshot in super slow-mo: a toddler tumbling to his death while the parents (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, credited as He and She) make beautiful love. Replete with a hardcore penetration shot.

The couple then retreat to a cabin in the woods, where He – a therapist – attacks with psychobabble, and She – a nutjob – retaliates by drilling a hole through his leg. “Chaos reigns,” growls a disembowelled fox, and he’s not far wrong.

Such sarcasm would be mean-spirited were it not for the nagging suspicion that von Trier got there first. OK, so it’s possible that Antichrist is actually this notorious prankster’s most sincere film to date, that it’s a profound, personal meditation on Original Sin and a bold attempt to reclaim the art film. But it’s also possible – nay, probable – that Lars is taking the piss.

Whatever his motive, he wants viewers to be outraged, enraged, anything but disengaged, and to give Antichrist any rating other than one star or five stars would be to thwart his sterling efforts.

So here’s the one star, delivered with affection and yes, a fair amount of anger. It’s exactly what he would have wanted.

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Editor-at-Large, Total Film

Jamie Graham is the Editor-at-Large of Total Film magazine. You'll likely find them around these parts reviewing the biggest films on the planet and speaking to some of the biggest stars in the business – that's just what Jamie does. Jamie has also written for outlets like SFX and the Sunday Times Culture, and appeared on podcasts exploring the wondrous worlds of occult and horror.