Yup, it's all there: genital mutilation, talking critters and all.
I'd never gone into a movie knowing as much about it, shot for shot, as I did Antichrist. And yet, I was still shocked. Or at least grossed out enough that I had to bury my face in my hands at strategic moments. Despite its moments of beauty (you may have heard a little something about the others?) I couldn't get past the movie's essential misanthropy - although if the experience did indeed prove a therapeutic fever-dream for the director, well, good on him. The New Yorker's Anthony Lane remarked,
At Cannes, the film received two prizes: one for Charlotte Gainsbourg, as Best Actress, and a scornful anti-trophy for von Trier, awarded for misogyny by the Ecumenical Jury. How the two should be squared I am unsure. The movie certainly shudders with a terror of female power, and the last thing we see is a monstrous regiment of women, their faces blanked out, streaming up a hillside, like the nightmare of a Puritan preacher. Yet so plain is Gainsbourg's dramatic dominance, as opposed to her place in von Trier's mad ideological scheme, that she carries the tale with a conviction barely hinted at in the script.
Last month, a British writer and critic, Jessica Mann, hit on these same issues when she declared in an essay that she could no longer review increasingly brutal crime fiction, filled with violence against women. This set off a small tempest, especially when she clarified that her objection wasn't to do with straightforward sexism, since the most extreme examples were by female writers. Rather, she just didn't want to read it. While the two can definitely start a discussion of the role of gaze, intent and control, my basic feeling was one of. well, agreement. Because that's what I felt watching - or rather, not watching - Antichrist. My objection wasn't intellectual but visceral. And if no one's looking, how effective is the lesson?