Bright Lights Film Journal

Antichrist’s Cine-Chthonic Relations

I’m shocked SHOCKED to find the modern masterpiece of 2009, ANTICHRIST, getting such hostile reviews. Why? Call me off the wall but I’m betting these writers/critcs a) don’t understand films made before 1934, b) are blindly obedient to academic/cultural trends; c) they never learned the difference between “exploring” issues of misogyny and actually “being” misogynist, i.e. objectifying (VERTIGO Vs. PORKY’S, for example).

Perhaps Von Trier’s films are so polarizing because they rave against cinema and sexuality like an apocalypse of seeing. Compare the much higher reception for Quentin Tarantino’s INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, a very similarly pre-de-constructed 2009 film, which together with ANTICHRIST represents the post-modern pinnacle of 2009 box office polarization. But QT’s cinematic influences and reference points are written on his sleeve (or soundtrack CD back cover) and Nazis are safer to hate than our own corrupting sexuality. Poor Lars is just lumped in with ‘artsy’ which we’re already presumed to pretend to know. Also, I bet a lot of these critics saw the film at Cannes, and I can’t imagine it would seem very good in the context of too little sleep and way too much less-than-worthy artsy tripe, it’s all about context.

Below is a small list of films which surely influence Von Trier or at the very least may help one understand ANTICHRIST as more than just “that movie with the scissors.” Instead of my own synopses I’ve attached relevant quotes:

REPULSION (1965)

“Deneuve makes one feel the confusion of a corrupted child: She is an arrested adolescent who, like an anorexic, cannot face her womanliness without visions of perverse opulence and violence. Carol is the personification of sexual mystery — she is what lurks beneath the orgasms of pleasure and pain.” – Kim Morgan, Sunset Gun 

VERTIGO (1958)

“There is something mysterious about femaleness — coming from the facts of woman’s physical nature, the endless mysteries of the shadowy womb, and the power of procreation that even she doesn’t understand.” -Camille Paglia (Salon

BRINGING UP BABY (1938)-

“One question: If adulthood is the price of sexual happiness, is the price fair?…Why are the vaunted pleasures of sexuality so ludicrous and threatening?” — – Stanley Cavell (Comedies of Remarriage, p. 125)
 

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE AKA DAY OF THE WOMAN (1978)

“Disagree with the gore of horror movies all you want, but at least we’re seeing a positive trend of gender equality in gruesome Hollywood killers these days..” — Drew Grant, The Frisky 

SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER (1959)

“He-he was lying naked on the broken stones…and this you won’t believe! Nobody, nobody, nobody could believe it! It looked as if-as if they had devoured him!…As if they’d torn or cut parts of him away with their hands, or with knives, or those jagged tin cans they made music with. As if they’d torn bits of him away in strips!”- Catherine (Elizabeth Taylor) 

LOST HIGHWAY (1997)

“Desire is red and desire is death and desire is woman. There is, inescapably, a fear of, a distance from woman here. And there is a loathing of self, too: the peeping video artist, complete with self-bilocating technical trickery, has (at least initially) the aspect of a cosmeticized and malignant dwarf.” – Donald Lyons (Film Comment, 1997

SEE ALSO:
THE INNOCENTS, THE BLUE ANGEL, PI
CNIC AT HANGING ROCK, PERSONA, BETTY BLUE and see my more detailed piece on ANTICHRIST on ACIDEMIC.