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Nature is Satan's Church
Star - William Defoe
Genre - Drama
Run Time - 108 minutes
Certificate - 18R
Blockbuster Rental - £1.49 per night
Amazon -£5.7100 DVD (£6.69 Blue Ray)
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Asking Lars Von Trier to make a sensible film is like asking the Boston Strangler for a neck massage, Antichrist drawing the wraith of, and praise, of the Cannes Film Festival critics in equal measure. His film was greeted with laughter, disgust and boos in the screening by some yet the lead actress Charlotte Gainsbourg would win the Best Actress award from the same critics. In fact it received a special anti-award from the ecumenical jury at Cannes. The jury, which typically awards a film that promotes spiritual and humanist values, decided to award this film an anti-award for its misogynistic views and sexual violence. Lars von Trier says he is not a misogynist and the film a break down of what is love and what is lust.
Antichrist is the first film of the controversial directors 'depression trilogy', the spooky Melancholia and the soon to be released Nymphomaniac the other two. LVT was just two months out of the mental hospital when he began filming Antichrist and by then a declared manic depressive, hence the trilogy. Melancholia was certainly an interesting film about the way the depressed thrive in negative environments, the narrative being what's the worse that can happen, a giant planet smashing into Earth the scenario, the biggest fear the depressed director could think up for his film. Antichrist, on the other hand, is about the default relationship between man and woman, that of sex and desire over love and protection, although I'm sure many experts would disagree. It's also a hard watch and not very good.
I'm a big fan of LVT's early Dogme work but now he has access to studio budgets he has started breaking those Dogme rules. The Dogme film movement was a Scandinavian thing where filmmaking was broken down to the basics. You couldn't use special effects, unnatural lighting, make up for your actors and only natural sound and vision etc... Basically you switch the hand held camera on and off you went, creating a very natural look and feel. He also made the musical Breaking the Waves, which also had a few film critics in a tizzy.
That's what fear is, thoughts distort reality. Not the other way around.
He ....Willem Defoe
She ...Charlotte Gainsboro
Boy ... Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm
"A crying woman is a scheming woman".
In super slow motion we see He (Defoe) and She (Gainsbourg), his partner, making love on the bed. Distracted, they allow their very young son Nic (Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm) to climb up to the ledge and open the window and tumble out to his death three storey's below in the snow.
Chapter One - Grief:
Ripped with guilt and drugged up to the eyeballs by their doctors they retreat to a cabin in the woods - Eden - where he will use his therapist skills to try and drag her out of her deep depression, intending to use 'exposure therapy'.
Chapter Two: Pain
In the cabin things begin to unravel between them, She becoming increasingly grief-stricken and manic. We learn that she was doing a thesis for her post graduate degree, entitled misogyny, and her conclusions that women are inherently evil. We also learn Nic had slightly deformed feet and He was not aware of that, why Nic may have fallen from the windowsill, which He finds sinister.
The two become more in sinc with the brutality of nature, kill or be killed, the haunting forest beginning to overwhelm them.
Chapter Three: Despair
The couple begin having sex again and increasingly violent, asking him to hit her. She blames herself for their son loss, but making love at the time of his death trying for another baby.
Chapter Four: The three Beggers
Things get very violent in Eden, the fine line between love and hate tested, 40 minutes of some of cinemas yuckiest and explicit scenes hereafter.
A grim film that wants you to feel the pain its characters do is the best way to describe this pretentious and often unwatchable film. Clearly this depression trilogy is a very personal journey for the director and LVT has admitted recently that perhaps the film did go a stray towards the end. At one point we have a talking fox?
After that over the top and operatic opening sequence. It started off quite interestingly as we get to grips with what women are really about and the façade they put on, or off, to attract or repel men. When women are around women with no men present they are very different creatures. Some say women are far more devious than men, sexually and mentally, to get what they want. We have seen on 'I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here' with Becky Addlington on just how important they feel looks and body image are on a being a female, especially when eligible men are present. You can see the steam coming out of the feminist ears when they watch that stuff. Attractive intelligent women know the short cut to success is your looks not your brains.
To be honest I don't really know what this film is all about other than there is a link between sex and violence going on. Do women hit men to get them to hit them back to get him to show them love that way? Who know although I suspect that is the case in certain relationships. Do women clamp their men's balls in a vice to make their point? Probably not. In fact some of the scenes in the film are clearly there to wind up the critics as LVT stretched his metaphor until it snapped. It was his venture into the horror genre and to be fair it's certainly horrible at times.
It cost $11 million to make but did a pathetic $750.000 grand back, the word of mouth audience quickly disgusted and repulsed, very much a DVD curio rent. The redeeming points are few and far between unless you want to see some ugly explicit sex, self mutilation of the female parts and blood ejaculations. Yes blood ejaculations. Its shock value stuff folks like you see in tedious modern art and a film that's hard to recommend, which I won't. Clearly there is something here as it gets ok ratings with some critics but the message too dark and controversial for the mainstream. It really is a pretentious pile of poo and only slightly redeemed by Gainsbourg's eye catching performance.
Imdb.com - 6.5/10.0 (58.818 votes)
Metacrtic.com - 49% critic's approval
Rottentomatos.com - 55% critic's approval
Efilmcritic.com -'Despite some strikingly flourishes, von Trier's latest makes him look less like a mad genius and more like he's simply, mad'.
AV Club -' Antichrist is a boldly personal film, tossing all von Trier's ideas about faith, fear, and human nature into an unfettered phantasmagoria, full of repulsive visions and fierce scorn'.
Toronto Star -' Antichrist ends up being more unnerving than it is terrifying, and a lot funnier than it's supposed to be'.
Newsweek Magazine -'I was more bored and puzzled than shattered and provoked'.
Dead Spin Magazine -'Before this movie goes careening desperately, hysterically, insanely off the rails, this is an ambitious, scary peek into pulsating, evil human hurt'.
The Mail -'Von Trier is a prankster so any attempt to guess at WTF he had in mind could just end up with the Danish auteur pulling your leg.
The Chicago Tribune -'But it has moments you won't forget, however much you may want to'
NY Post -'No pain, no gain'.
.....'Oak trees grow to be hundreds of years old. They only have to produce one single tree every hundred years in order to propagate. May sound banal to you but it was a big thing for me to realize that when I was up here with Nic. The acorns fell on the roof vent. They kept falling and falling. And die and die. And I understood that everything that used to be beautiful about Eden was perhaps hideous. Now I could hear what I couldn't hear before. The cry of all the things that are to die'...............
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This Optimum Home Entertainment DVD is £10 on amazon. It has decent picture quality and no extras.
There are quite a few Exorcist rip-offs from the mid-70s. This Italian example from 1974 is pretty full-blooded, and a great deal more entertaining than the dreary movie it was ripping off.
Ippolita is wheelchair bound after a car accident which killed her mother. Her father and brother dote on her, but she is bitter and resigned to her fate. A psychiatrist believes he can cure her by hypnotising her into remembering a past life (is that something that psychiatrists do?) Unfortunately this simply reveals that she was a witch possessed by Satan in the middle ages, and this somehow opens the door to the devil to come and take possession of Ippolita now. She starts doing all the usual stuff - vomiting pea soup, talking in a growly voice, swearing a lot, hurling furniture around - you know the score.
This isn't a great film, by any stretch of the imagination. But it is very enjoyable. The only real novelty here is that the possessed woman is a grown-up, rather than the little girl of The Exorcist. The film takes its time to get going - after a cracking opening sequence it slips into rather dull soap opera antics for about half an hour. But as soon as Ippolita meets the devil in her dreams, things don't really let up until the end.
Ippolita is played by someone called Carla Gravina, who I don't think I've seen in anything else. She's very strange looking - at times she kind of reminded me of Mark Gatiss in drag. She gives a pretty full-on performance, foaming at the mouth and contorting herself in her wheelchair. There's very obvious use of a body double during the nude scenes, though.
The supporting cast is unusually classy. American not-quite-stars Mel Ferrer and Arthur Kennedy both bring a bit of gravitas to their parts as Ippolita's father and uncle. Ferrer gets one rather regrettable love scene, and at one point his, ah, lunchbox is a bit too visible. Kennedy is a hoot, playing a priest who's been dubbed with an incongruous New Jersey accent. He appeared in The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue the same year.
More support is provided by Alida Valli (she was in The Third Man!) and George Coulouris (he was in Citizen Kane!). Other cast members acquit themselves pretty well, although with all the voices post-dubbed it's a little difficult to judge accurately. The comedy exorcist is quite good, anyway.
The special effects, on the other hand, are pretty hilarious. There are lots of terrible superimposition shots, supposedly showing people floating in the air or falling to their deaths, but looking so poor you have to wonder how anyone thought they were going to get away with it. When Satan has possessed Ippolita, his main aim seems to be to throw sideboards around, which he does with aplomb, but even there the special effects are pretty dismal. One character at some point is meant to be getting hanged by his own tie, and that's very funny, as the actor is visibly holding it in place.
It wouldn't be fair to say that this is completely lame, though. Carla Gravina's performance as Ippolita is intense enough to give the film at least some genuine horror, and there are a couple of effective sequences. The beginning is also quite itense, as various cripples and madmen are paraded in front of the statue of a saint. The scene uses several people with genuine disabilities, which adds a frisson of bad taste and unease to the sequence (it's very similar to a scene in Ken Russell's Tommy, except that features Eric Clapton and Arthur Brown and this doesn't).
Most of the horror is pretty weak, though. Because The Exorcist features a notable scene of a head spinning round, this film has to do one too, and it is terrible. Ippolita's seduction of a German tourist in some catacombs is also lame, at least partly because while they're touching each other up a hapless extra right behind them is looking around wide-eyed as if awed by the amazing beauty of the catacombs.
There's not quite as much smut as one might expect, but there is a pretty full-on orgy scene in one of the historical flashbacks. It involves a particularly silly-looking devil, and is generally pretty ho-um. But when a goat is bought on and a young lady is required to kiss its bottom, it becomes apparent that we're in slightly more sordid territory than we might have thought. The director of The Antichrist was also responsible for the hilarious Omen rip-off Holocaust 2000, which contains nothing more offensive that Kirk Douglas's naked penis. The director of photography was Aristide Massaccesi, though, who directed some staggeringly sleazy films under the name Joe D'Amato, and whose films have been known to feature animals in unpleasant contexts (that is the most delicate way of putting it that I can think of).
The music is good. It's credited to Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai, so it's hard to say who wrote which bits. But the genuinely hysterical churchy organ music at the film's silly climax sounds like something Morricone probably wrote. The film makes good use of locations around Rome, including some impressive ruins. The family's big mansion (we never learn what they do, but assume they're aristocrats) also contains some amazing busts. Meaning statues depicting people's heads and shoulders, not ladies' bosoms.
Obviously there's no sense in which this is essential viewing. But it's got some genuinely good moments, and where it isn't good, it's at least entertaining. It takes its time getting going, but isn't a complete wash-out when it does.