After being left feeling astounded at the masterpiece that was 2011’s Melancholia, I took it upon myself to delve into this director’s back catalogue.
I started off with Dancer in the Dark, thinking this was going to be some uplifting tale of a blind woman who rose up from her difficult social circumstances to make it into the glamorous world of Hollywood, boy was I wrong…what I got was theft, murder and death by hanging, all to the hypnotising soundtrack of Bjork. It was brutal seeing the suffering this woman went through to try and prevent her son from suffering the same illness that she did, but it just left me feeling cold and empty.
My most significant memory of this film was this…which came years before I even saw it.
Next I tried Dogville. I read about the themes which interested me as well as the casting of Nicole Kidman and Paul Bettany. However after about 20 minutes I gave up, unable to get to grips with the chalk lined setting. I’d like to revisit this film but its 178 minute long running time along with the ‘unrealistic’ setting doesn’t exactly spark my interest.
Afterwards I turned to Breaking the Waves, which I’m still avoiding. I’ve heard it’s Von Trier’s best work and although again the narrative themes sound appealing, just imagining these compared to what I’ve seen already fills me with dread.
This brings me to the main event, Antichrist, a film I’ve been daring myself to watch for at least a year and didn’t build up the courage until last night. Well, I had already read a scene by scene synopsis to really let myself know what I was in for – this actually made it sound much more gruesome than what actually unfolded.
The opening shower sex scene was horrible; I didn’t need to see that penetration. The actual death of the child left me completely unaffected. Without going into an ENTIRE plot summary, ‘She’ (Charlotte Gainsbourg) becomes deeply depressed and anxious after this death, which I forgot to mention occurred at the same time as the ‘act of love’ was in full action. ‘He’ (William Dafoe) is a psychologist who tries to help his wife through this, eventually taking a trip to ‘Eden’, a forest which She admits to being the place she fears the most.
This was where I expected an all-out gore-fest. What I got was a nasty scene where She masturbated underneath a tree, before having sex with He, then throwing a piece of wood, rock, or whatever onto his penis. She then proceeds to masturbate him, while blood spurts out of his penis. He remains unconscious the whole time, while She then screwdrives her way through his leg and pushes and pulls a finger out of the bloody hole. She then cuts off her clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors, He wakes up and strangles her then burns her body and attempts to make his way out of the woods.
Oh by the way, there’s also a talking fox.
Antichrist contains many elements which intrigue me – She wrote her thesis on the persecution of women through the ages, the work She read while researching this then led to her concluding that women are evil and I assume the burning of her body was some kind of metaphor for this. However I really don’t see what all the fuss was about apart from including gutsy performances by mainstreamish actors. I’m renowned for my fear of horror and was actually disappointed by the lack of extremity I’d heard so much talk of.
On the other hand, Melancholia is a genuine piece of art. Von Trier’s next project is ‘The Nymphomaniac’. Having just watched the trailer for this, I can’t see myself venturing out to the local Cineworld to view it, but will likely make the effort to catch it on DVD. It does make me wonder what torture he’ll plan for his female characters next. Think I’ll choose The Idiots as my next venture into this director’s work, apparently it includes some humour.
Here’s the Nymphomaniac trailer (I think we can all agree that the casting of Shia LaBeouf is enough to make us feel a little bit squeamish towards it):