So, the basic story of Antichrist is fairly standard for a horror movie, although I'm debating whether this is actually a horror movie, but the horror/thriller line is sort of dodgy anyways, so let's just assume that this is a horror movie for simplicity. A couple goes to a cabin in the woods to battle the grief of loosing their only child. A set up, I might add, that's fairly similar setup to one of my horror favorites, The Strangers, except you change the outcome from "masked psychopats with nothing better to do" to "The inherit evil of mankind," but I'm getting ahead of myself.
So, the roles of Him and Her kind of balances between knowing them just a little too well and not knowing them at all, for example we don't get to know their names. as for getting to know them, we get very close to them, into their intimacy, at least in the first scene, where we see a sex scene between the two in black & white and a mesmerizing sort of slow-motion. Lemme just go right ahead and say we probably wouldn't see anything like this in an american film. Of course, David Lynch would probably like to, but I guess the producers are a bit more persuasive over the pond. Well, this scene, except for setting us up for the brainfuck that is to follow with the accident, also sets us into the mood of the movie. Lars Von Trier's got our attention now, and he's going to do horrible, horrible things with it before he lets it go.
I won't go into details with the plot, but basically, He decides to try to cure Her grief via psychotherapy, since he's a psychologist by profession. A part of this therapy is taking her to an old cabin She once visited with their son. On the way, it's pretty obvious this is a really bad idea, at least from the standard genre savvy perspective. For example, we get a little subliminal fuck you via snarling faces superimposed over the woods the couple drive by, or through. Once they reach the cabin, the treatment begins, but things soon go straight to hell, neither passing start nor collecting 2000$. It's a bit hard to describe what happens, but She gets convinced she's evil, and tries to convince Him, quite violently in the end.
In the end, I feel that I should leave it to more capable hands to try to analyze this movie. I don't know anything, after all. I'm just a film geek with half a year (and counting) worth of Psychology education and my own little nook in the intertubes. Of course, I have realized that people rowing themselves out on deep waters and burning the oars is what the internet is for, so this is why I'm writing today. Anyway, as far as I see it, Antichrist can either be about the bottomless evil of mankind or the depths of depravity to which one is willing to sink to escape grief. Granted, a straightforward interpretation of this film could also say that it's only women that's evil and that men just have to defend themselves from the sadistic hell harpies known as womenfolk.
I'm a bit sceptical to that, mostly since it appears to be a bit too much of a simplistic interpretation. Call me elitist, but I think that if you find the answer to what the movie is about without copious amounts of digging in both the movie and your own mind, you're not doing it right. This, of course, applies extra strongly to movies like Antichrist, but it holds true for most other movies, and is mostly the reason why I do not consider Fight Club as an anarchistic manifesto. Also, in the end, He winds up killing his wife, and you can argue that as self-defense all you will, but I maintain that there's a difference between trying to subdue someone or gain enough distance to flee, as one will want to do when defending yourself, and killing them. It could be the pacifist in me speaking, but I figure the end is His descent into darkness as much as it's Hers.
My second interpretation, I'm starting to doubt a little, but it's worth a shot, I would say. You see, what it would appear is that He is over his grief, or has processed it by the book, to the point where he's capable of functioning normally very quickly. Me, I think he's in it just as deep as She is, or maybe more. What makes me say this is that I'm fairly sure you're not supposed to try psychotherapy on your own family or close friends, and if He wasn't at his wit's end, he'd probably know that. In a way, trying to treat her is in reality him trying to treat himself. You could say there's a level of cognitive dissonance at work in the character of He. He considers himself a man who knows enough about the workings of the human mind to treat grief, but he himself feels grief he can't overcome, and therefore the grief gets pushed aside, at which points it manifests as a focus on treating Her of her grief. I'm certain this paragraph would make several of my psychology professors cry, but hey, I've still got a lot to learn.
She, on the other hand, is unable to concieve a setting where unfortunate circumstances alone could end in the death of her child, and therefore adds a factor contributing to this, herself being evil. Of course, it's hinted that this particular problem is actually older than that, since it would seem She somehow let her research into medieval witch hunts and misogyny in general get to her back at the above mentioned first cabin trip. That is, of course, if you accept that there's no supernatural snake in this paradise, literally as the cabin is named Eden. Me, I believe this is mostly an in-their-minds experience, but I realize a lot of things would make sense if there was some supernatural presence.
Well, I'm about ready to wind down. Antichrist is a film you should see, at least if you care about what good filmmakers make when they are severely depressed, but it's probably not a movie you'll want to watch again. It's a bit like Irreversible, in that I haven't been able to watch it a second time, and neither will most people, I suspect.
So, happy 2010, I guess. Here's hoping this year will be a good one for horror. Speaking of which, I'm planning to cover Paranormal Activity rather soon, so tune in for that.