Criterion Tackles 'Antichrist'

Nov 11, 2010 at 5:30 pm

The Criterion Collection, film geekdom's favorite DVD/Blu-ray distributor, is offering a plush version of Lars von Trier's Antichrist this week. I've yet to procure a copy, but the “special features” — which I usually shun for a variety of reasons — look promising, including an audio commentary track by von Trier and professor Murray Smith; a collection of video interviews with von Trier and actors Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg; and a documentary about the film's notorious debut at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. —-

Given that Antichrist didn't have a theatrical release in Cincinnati, the existence of Criterion's version should be of significant interest to local film buffs who've yet to catch it. And for those in the dark as to its controversial nature — the narrative centers on a grief-stricken couple (impressively, bravely played by Gainsbourg and Dafoe) dealing with the accidental death of their infant son — here's what I wrote upon seeing it at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival:

“Anyone familiar with von Trier’s work shouldn’t be surprised by Antichrist’s extreme melodramatics or ample technical chops. The guy has long been a master manipulator, and he’s at his exploitative apex here. The film is gorgeous to look at, and its intimacy and ominous atmospherics are skillfully sustained throughout.

Yet any informed critique of the film would require, at the very least, a second viewing. Certain themes are obvious — the absurdity of modern psychoanalysis, the differences between men and women, the nature of evil — but, just as Dancer in the Dark was his twisted version of a musical, Antichrist is, first and foremost, von Trier’s version of a horror film, one shot through with (what seems to be) a deeply personal, emotionally naked vision. It’s as if Bergman decided to take on the so-called 'torture porn' genre.”

I'll now get that second viewing.