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Antichrist and other thoughts
Posted on Tuesday April 14, 2009, 14:49 by Damon Wise

It occurs to me that I haven't written anything on this blog for quite some time, so I'll just do what everyone else does on the net and ramble on about some recent news. The last thing to land in my inbox was an email about the recent death of Simon Channing Williams, perhaps best known to me as the producer who raced off to Venice with a VHS of Mike Leigh's Vera Drake to show the head of the festival there while the selectors at Cannes were still trying to make their minds up. The film's resulting Golden Lion win spoke volumes about his instincts. Williams had a long-standing association with Leigh since High Hopes in 1988, and had a sizeable hit of his own in 2005 with The Constant Gardener. I never met him, but then neither did I hear of anyone with a bad word for him, but the news of Williams' death, at 63, as a result of cancer, was a shock to me mostly because it followed two other recent deaths in the film world. The most widely reported of these was the death last week of Wouter Barendrecht, the German-born co-founder of sales and production company Fortissimo. I didn't know Barendrecht personally either, but it's impossible to write a column like this without knowing a) lots of people who do, and b) how much he influenced the landscape of modern art cinema. Without Barendrecht, who died of a heart attack in Thailand, aged 43, it's pretty unlikely that Wong Kar-Wei would have arrived on everyone's radar the way he did, plus Fortissimo helped gay cinema immeasurably by supporting filmmakers such as John Cameron Mitchell and Gregg Araki. Lastly, but by no means least, Hercules Bellville died in February, also of cancer, aged 69. Now, Hercules I did know, albeit very, very slightly, and I always tried to stampede this gnomic and elegant character into conversation, about his work as a producer with the likes of Roman Polanski, Jack Nicholson and Michelangelo Antonioni. I suspect that day would never have come even if he'd lived to be 100; so I will have to make do with the memory of that bizarre day on the set of Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers, when Alan Yentob tried to buy his name off him for £20. As I think was his style, Bellville was polite but firm in his refusal.

Also in my inbox was a trailer for Lars Von Trier's new film Antichrist, in which Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg play a married couple, mourning the loss of a child, who encounter evil during a break in a remote log cabin. I first heard of this a few years back, when Lars' producer, Peter Aalbaek, Jensen accidentally revealed the ending of the original script to a journalist who then printed it. The story from Lars' production company Zentropa was that Aalbaek subsequently insisted that the first thing to be paid for when the film finally went into production was a new door for his office, to replace the one that was damaged in the resulting, rather heated conversation. Having accidentally heard the ending of the original script, which I will not reveal, I don't know quite how much of it Von Trier has rewritten, although the line where Charlotte Gainsbourg says, “Nature is Satan's church,” makes me think he hasn't junked his original concept completely.

To be honest, I don't know what to make of the trailer; the advance word says it's a very gory horror movie but this clip suggests more of a Rosemary's Baby vibe. It's interesting, however, to see the visual style of the movie, which, aside from a few verité-like flashes, looks to be a throwback to his highly atmospheric early movies (Element Of Crime and Europa). Von Trier is nothing if not a showman, and he usually knows which way the wind is blowing for him. When Manderlay failed to light the blue touch paper at Cannes four years ago, he clearly realised that the old enfant terrible routine was getting stale, so instead of making the third film in his USA trilogy – Wasington (sic) – he chose instead to make a small, little-seen and very funny Danish-language comedy called The Boss Of It All. The fact that Lars is working in the English language again suggests that he wants to return to the world stage, and whatever you think of his grandstanding, the fact remains than when Lars Von Trier decides that he has something to say, it's usually worth listening to. Personally, I have high hopes for Antichrist and I'm holding out for its appearance at this year's Cannes. Horror may seem like an odd fit for Von Trier, but if you've seen his outstanding TV series The Kingdom you'll know that he has a very good understanding of genre. For now, though, all we have to go on is this wayward nugget, strangely beautiful but cut rather like a bog-standard PG-13 chiller. You can see it here.

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Comments

1 punchdrunk
Posted on Tuesday April 14, 2009, 21:10
For a moment I thought the Picture was a still from "Where the Wild Things" before the producers decided to aim it towards a younger audience.:p

I'm a bit disapointed with the title 'Antichrist' it seems a little on the nose, a short-cut in some ways but it comes with a lot of baggage theologically and culturally (around 2000 years anyway) It would have been far more interesting angle to re-visit the ancient Greek mythology Dionysus and the Bacci, would be a great subject matter to subject a modern day couple to, the seduction by drink and partying before the decent into maddening Maenads...beats the hell out of the beast with three numbers, hopefully i'll be proved wrong.

Also Some nice Tributes there Damo.


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