Von Trier fails to elevate torture porn
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, Oct. 23, 2009
There's something grotesquely appropriate in "Antichrist" opening the same day as "Saw VI." A horror film tricked out in the trappings of psycho-sexual dynamics and exegetical musings, this latest provocation from Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier qualifies as torture porn for art-house fans.
Since his 1996 breakout hit, "Breaking the Waves," von Trier has made a specialty of female martyrdom and putting his actresses through hell.
In "Antichrist" Charlotte Gainsbourg plays an unnamed woman grieving the loss of her young son. When she and her therapist husband (Willem Dafoe) repair to their cabin in the woods, they plunge into a battle between irrational, "female" nature and logical, "male" reason, a fight that culminates in the film's shocking final moments featuring graphic scenes of sexual mutilation and torture.
It would be easy to dismiss "Antichrist" as the work of an artist who is either psychologically depleted or cynically recycling yet another American genre. But for all its misogyny and sadistic violence, the film possesses moments of genuine psychological tension and startling beauty, such as when the couple makes love against a tree writhing with disembodied hands and arms. "Antichrist" finally embodies the contradiction of von Trier: He's a gifted, even visionary, artist mired in his own pulp pretentiousness.
Contains brief scenes of graphic sexuality, as well as torture, mutilation, bloody violence, nudity and disturbing images and thematic material.