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Antichrist [2009]: An Unnerving Portrait of Grief, Pain & Despair

Surprisingly better & more involving than I expected it to be, the first instalment in Lars von Trier’s "Depression Trilogy" is an experimental horror that’s slow at first, meandering at times but turns into a brutal, violent & merciless ride once the cruel side of nature takes over. Be wary of what you are getting into.

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The first entry in Lars von Trier’s Depression Trilogy is an increasingly disturbing but consistently gripping experimental horror that’s unnerving, unsettling & unforgiving in its depiction of grief, pain & despair but it doesn’t dig deep enough into those depressive elements to leave a lasting impression.




The story of Antichrist follows a grieving couple who, following the loss of their only son, retreat to a cabin in the woods in order to recover from the tragedy and repair their broken marriage. But as days pass, the husband starts experiencing strange visions while the wife begins to manifest increasingly violent behaviour.

Written & directed by Lars von Trier, the story is narrated in chapters, each covering a depressive stage that gets more n more intense as plot progresses. One element Trier captures perfectly is that suffocating feeling & tendency to blame when not in a stable state of mind, and he takes the premise into the horror territory in a very controlled fashion.

Characters & their situation is relatable at first, which makes their breakdown even more disquieting to watch. Cinematography employs numerous filming techniques, from ultra slow-mo, black-n-white prologue & epilogue that come accompanied with an aria, to the handheld camerawork that provides a sense of discomfort with its erratic movements.




Editing employs a text book narrative style, starting with a prologue that beautifully sets the stage for the main plot which unfolds in 4 chapters, gradually escalating to a harrowing finale and concludes with an epilogue that exhibits the same serenity as its prologue. But the pacing is a bit on the slow side as the story meanders a lot in between, and isn’t going to satisfy all.

Coming to the performances, both Willem Dafoe & Charlotte Gainsbourg carry the entire film on their own and deliver strong inputs, both individually & as a couple. Dafoe is calm & composed in his role as the husband & therapist who tries to help his wife move on with her life. Gainsbourg is even better as the wife whose condition goes from bad to worse before all hell breaks loose in the final act.




On an overall scale, Antichrist turned out to be better than what I initially expected, for it packs a plot that, despite a few pretentious artsy touches, remains accessible for the most part. Definitely not a film for all and certainly not for the easily distressed, Antichrist is merciless once the cruel side of nature takes over and though still not highly rewarding in the end, the interest at least never wavers. Worth a shot but better be wary of what you are getting into.

★★★

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