[Beware of Spoilers]
What makes a movie (or any piece of art for that matter?) good? What is it that makes it good? Is it a quality the movie has that is unchangeable? Is the quality in the movie itself or in the eye of the beholder?
The answer might be obvious but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it. Of course it isn’t the quality itself that can be found as a big chip in the eye of the beholder but the beholder recognizes the quality and without that recognition – what do we have? The person who likes the movie might argue that the quality is still there but that the viewer just doesn’t see it.
Be that as it may – it is a delicate interaction between the artist, the art and the viewer.
And this relationship never seizes to amaze me.
I went to see Lars Von Triers Antichrist tonight.
I can’t say I’m a fan of Lars Von Trier. I loved Dancer in the Dark but Idioterne is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. You could say that the little relationship I have to his movies is a bit of a love/hate relationship.
Those interested in the movie have already read the headlines. It’s shocking. It’s a horror movie. It’s about a couple dealing with the aftermath of loosing a child. And it’s strange and pornographic.
Apparently the shock most people seem to be in during this movie does so that they miss the details (he does show a penis/pussy as soon as possible, so if you’re “easily” shocked it happens with in a minute or so). Those who can see past the shock though can see many things.
This is a movie about the relationship between men and women. It’s a movie about good and evil. It’s a movie about depression and sorrow. It’s a movie about sex and guilt and … I could go on and on.
The delicate details are stunning. The interaction between the two people is so genuine and so delicate that it astounded me. The sex and nudity plays a big role in creating this. It makes the scenes seem special or one of a kind but at the same time real. This is just husband and wife not afraid to be confronted with each others bodies, not constantly trying to hide and it creates realness which sets an atmosphere in the film which evolves into surreal madness as we get deeper into Eden. The nudeness creates a real atmosphere which empowers the psychological drama.
But this is not meant as a realistic movie. This is a movie filled with imagery. Partially we are bombarded with religious imagery which we easily interpret. We have here a story of Adam and Eve trying to cope with life after the fall from grace. It is a film about fear and the horrors of mother nature, the outside nature (trees and grass and earth and stones) but also the nature within us.
And when the surreal imagery culminates in a pornographic mutilation the intimacy and the realness of the relationship between them transforms into absolute horror as the viewer (if she is brave enough to watch) can only find absolutely abhorring. And that’s the point. Von Trier manages to do something meaningful with “bodyhorror”, something every splatter director wants to do but most fail at. Because the film wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t feel utter disgust. I, at least, would have left the theater shrugging my shoulders thinking that at least the scenario was fantastic.
But those brutal scenes serve a purpose. They drive the stake through the viewer’s heart. Swept up in the disgust of the battle between the two sexes, trying to find a meaning, hoping that it wasn’t just utter misogyny.
Meaning is in the eye of the beholder. I left the movie salon strangely thrilled (although relieved that I no longer had to suffer through the rustle of the paper bag the guy next to me was eating from during most of the movie!).
In the end the man walks away from Eden alone, faced with the three beggars (fox, crow and a deer) and a hoard of dressed, faceless women. Evil has torn the husband and wife apart, it has infested itself in both of them and in the end it makes a murderer out of him. We learn that she was partially to blame for the child’s fall, that she saw. We learn that her nature, like his, is difficult to handle and unpredictable.
The religious imagery carries us all the way. She is to blame for the fall. She blames herself. She is of the flesh, very natural and nature in this mirrored world is evil. There is no good in a world after the fall and there is no tangible evil but in all we see, in all we have around us and in all we are. Evil isn’t only in her but in him as well. He is as natural as she is and in the end that’s what takes over and dictates the outcome.
There is no happy ending but the ending reflects a history mentioned in the film. History of witches and what has been called gynocide.
This is a fantastic film. It left me dumbfounded and not because of the “shocking” elements but because of the magnitude of the story. I applaud the actors who dared to go through with this. It can’t have been easy. It is one of the best horror films I’ve seen in a long time. It does what a film should do. It makes you think. It challenges you. It scares you. At least it did that to me.
This is one of these films I wouldn’t dare to recommend to people though, at least not until I knew something about their movie experience, likes and dislikes. Many people are so afraid to see naked butts (not to mention all the other things Von Trier shows us) that they will never be able to see anything but that.
But while pornography in movies is often just to show off the body of some actor or actress this movie uses it as imagery, and it’s brutal. It’s a part of the art, just like the mutilation, which is more grotesque than anything I’ve seen in a long time (and all that without you having to suffer through 1,5 hours of sawed off limbs or what have you). The sex and the horror is a part of the story, it’s a part of our history, an integrated part of the film and it wouldn’t be the same without it.
If you have to be shocked then so be it – but try to get passed it and look at what shocked you and why. Try to see the beauty in some of the scenes and find your meaning.
Because there is deep meaning in this movie. And that is often what makes a movie great. This movie is visually fantastic and can be interpreted on many levels. It is slow paced, brutal, beautiful and ugly. It tells us something about people and about history, I think. What more do we want in a movie?
But then again meaning is in the eye of the beholder. What did you see?