After the accidental death of their child, a therapist (Dafoe) and his wife (Gainsbourg) listed in the credits only as He and She retreat to a cabin in the perhaps-haunted woods to recover. Eventually, they turn savagely on each other and bloody mayhe
Lars von Trier has joked that he retells one story, about a long-suffering woman and a manipulative man who dooms her, in a succession of genres. Breaking The Waves was a melodrama, Dancer In The Dark a musical, Dogville a small-town exposé. This, evidently, is his horror film.
Antichrist is almost an anthology of nods to earlier horror-art achievements. The prologue, staged in monochrome ultra-slo-mo with operatic score and snowglobe snow (plus hardcore sex), conflates scenes from Don’t Look Now, as a couple are too busy making love to notice their toddler taking a fatal fall. Then, in the ethereally creepy woods, He and She are assailed by nature (acorns pelting the roof like hailstones, fungus/leech growths) as in the undervalued Australian film Long Weekend (the cabin evokes The Evil Dead too). This long, creepy section is the film’s most simple and successful act: deep, dark forests are invested with magic and menace, and the stars (alone onscreen for 99 per cent of the film) deftly reveal how cracked their characters are in jittery domestic rows which foreshadow extreme cruelties.
The mood changes when a fox pauses in the act of disembowelling itself and snarls, “Chaos reigns,” signalling a chapter called The Three Beggars in which the bereft parents are visited by the fox, a crow and a miscarrying deer (anti-Christian opposites of the Three Kings?) and She goes into Audition mode with acts of extreme sexual violence against her husband and herself. It risks gigglesome elements like the talking fox and made-up constellations, before provoking walkouts with video-nasty grue. Dafoe and Gainsbourg are wholly committed, though porn actors or prosthetics substitute for key close-ups. Dafoe inevitably recalls The Last Temptation Of Christ as he undergoes leg-piercing, entombment, stone-rolling and resurrection.
Like vintage Fulci (The Beyond) or Argento (Inferno), it breaks with reasonable storyline and leaves the natural world for limbo. After spending the film with only two characters, the sudden presence of huge crowds in the woods is startling, but more weird than meaningful.
A star rating is not much help, since von Triers self-conscious arrogance is calculated to split audiences into extremist factions, but Antichrist delivers enough beauty, terror and wonder to qualify as the strangest and most original horror movie of the