Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Anti-Christ Anti-Review

I have a lot of filmic influences from around the globe but there are only a core group of filmmakers who I truly consider and regard as cinematic legends. Andrei Tarkovsky is one, if not, the greatest filmmaker of all time and leads the pack of cinematic legends that I am in awe of and to whom I aspire to be like. Lars Von Trier is also part of this cinematic rat pack, obviously for very different reasons than dear old Andrei, yet the two filmmakers are intertwined for me.

Tarkovsky's influence on Von Trier is more than apparent, particularly in his first few films. Look at Von Trier's early masterpiece "The Elements of Crime" which clearly lends itself to Tarkovsky nature infused imagery but in a new disturbing and twisted way. As Von Trier evolved as a filmmaker, he drifted farther and farther from the traditional cinema form and began crafting his unique Dogma style of filmmaking, as far a departure from Tarkovsky as possible.

But with Anti-Christ we see a return to these old school influence of restrained and delicate camera work that entrances your eyes and mind but in an anti-Tarkovsky fashion, making it all the more compelling. Anti-Christ is a hypnotic horror fest that not only hypnotizes its viewers, but makes them extremely uncomfortable, while dabbling in a myriad of themes ranging from sex, violence, depression, torture, genocide, religion, satanism and death. While these may seem overwhelming in description, Von Trier's anti-Tarkovsky film style slowly lulls the viewer into a calm before dealing a death blow.

Lars von Trier's history of torturing a woman's soul in his films is part of his signature, usually giving them an enormous hurdle to overcome and then pulling the rug beneath their feet just as they are about to succeed, making it all the more tragic. His films are at times, very difficult to watch, so it's no surprise that he has a knack for horror films. However, previous to this, Von Trier has only done one true horror project "Riget" better known as "The Kingdom", an excellent Danish TV show that was poorly adapted in the US by Stephen King and cut short due to the death of its primary actor. But nothing is quite as chilling as his new endeavor.

Anti-Christ might be Lars' greatest work to date in my humble opinion. While many in Cannes scoffed at the graphic sexual violence portrayed in the film and then felt insulted as they saw a solemn dedication to Andrei Tarkovsky, I felt the opposite way. Why? Because in many ways this is the ultimate Andrei Tarkovsky film but in an antithesis kind of way.

Where Andrei found beauty in nature, Lars finds evil. While Andrei will hold imagery of religious artwork in his films, Lars focuses on images of torture and genocide. In the method of perfection that Tarkovsky strived for, Von Trier relishes in controlled chaos. And in the way that Andrei searches for Christ in his films, Lars reveals to us the Anti-Christ inherent in our own human nature.

Without revealing any spoilers, the final shot of Anti-Christ to me is like a continuation of one of the many mesmerizing shots from Tarkovski's final film "The Sacrifice", specifically when Erland Josephon daydreams about the oncoming apocalypse and has a vision of countless faceless figures running down an abandoned street. Remember this shot when you see Anti-Christ and you will understand how Von Trier has connected the dots from one of his greatest teachers to his own cinematic vision.

1 comment:

panccio said...

excellent review and perspective.
a friend told me that Von Trier prepared his actors (for antichrist) by watching Tarkovsky's "the mirror"... which is interesting as well.
keep the good work.