Yes, she smashes his testicles and makes him cum blood and cuts off her clitoris with a pair of scissors (in close-up, no less!). It’s all true. That’s where the discussion of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist stalled after its debut at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. It’s not that critics and audiences at Cannes failed to get past the genital mutilation—I’m not convinced genital mutilation is something one should “get past”—but they did let it determine and essentially consume the discourse on the film. Antichrist was treated either as a grotesque provocation or a punchline. Either way, it was dismissable, something to be condemned or laughed at and certainly not something to be taken seriously. This is an understandable but insufficient reaction to a film as off-putting, disturbing, and frankly bizarre as Antichrist. Improbably, since that infamous Cannes premiere, the tide has turned with a Film Comment cover story, positive-to-ecstatic notices out of Toronto, and a New York Film Festival invitation. For a movie that’s already gone through a complete critical cycle of backlash and anti-backlash months before its U.S. release, however, Antichrist still feels under-scrutizined. Neither a disposable abomination nor a misunderstood masterpiece, Antichrist is the sort of challenging mess of a movie that demands examination, contextualization, and analysis. Von Trier may be a nut, but he’s also, as Antichrist makes clear, talented, frustrating, and intermittently brilliant.
Click here to read the rest of Chris Wisniewski’s review of Antichrist.