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A couple is grieving the death of their son, who fell from a window. The mother, an academic who studies the hatred and murder of women throughout history, is at first admitted to psychiatric hospital after the incident, but her husband, a headstrong therapist, insists on going with her to their remote forest cabin, Eden, and treating her himself. They immerse themselves in nature and act out their deep pain in a series of strange, dangerous, and brutal rituals.
For more about Antichrist and the Antichrist Blu-ray release, see Antichrist Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on October 28, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm
Director: Lars von Trier
» See full cast & crew
Antichrist Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 28, 2010
Winner of the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, Lars von Trier's "Antichrist" (2009) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an audio commentary with professor Murray Smith from University of Kent in the United Kingdom and director Lars von Trier; interviews with various cast and crew members; making of fetaturette; footage from the film's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival; theatrical trailers and more. The disc also arrives with a 30-page illustrated booklet. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked". Please be advised that the film contains disturbing footage that is not appropriate for minors!
Danish director Lars von Trier's Antichrist is this year's most controversial film. Similar to Gaspar Noe's Irreversible, it has truly managed to get a number or people, including some prominent critics, out of their comfort zones. The well-mannered Todd McCarthy, who writes for Variety Magazine, for example, had this to say: "Lars von Trier cuts a big fat art-film fart with "Antichrist". As if deliberately courting critical abuse, the Danish bad boy densely packs this theological-psychological horror opus with grotesque, self-consciously provocative images that might have impressed even Hieronymus Boschï¿½" But is Antichrist truly that bad?
Depending on how flexible your tolerance for human suffering is, I'd say yes, Antichrist is a bad film, but a different king of bad. It offers a chilling trip into the bleak world of a devastated couple - He (Willem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg, The Science of Sleep) - where abuse, misery and self-humiliation are examined in a shockingly disturbing fashion.
Antichrist is divided into four chapters - Grief, Pain (Chaos Reigns), Despair (Gynocide), and The Three Beggars - each focusing on the complex process of coming to terms and eventually overcoming the loss of a loved one. The film also has a short prologue and epilogue; the former chronicles the tragedy, the latter summarizes the consequences of it.
Now, here's exactly why the film has turned off so many who have already seen it:
First, Antichrist is not a symbolic film. What you would see in it is what von Trier wanted you to see. The visuals are so direct and powerful that you won't have to speculate about hidden meanings or unspoken messages. The horror is right there, on the screen; it will hit you in the face and you will react to it during the film, not after the final credits roll.
Second, Antichrist is an explicit film. Not dirty, explicit. The sex is mechanical, cold and ugly. He and She have sex to temporarily escape the pain. In a cynical sort of way, Antichrist shows that sex is a form of therapy that works (unlike religion, which isn't even mentioned).
Third, Satan, the Creator, the One who started it all. All four chapters in von Trier's film make it perfectly clear that it was Satan that created us; hence the reason why we suffer, kill and die. According to von Trier, God gave up on us and left. In Antichrist, He and She come to realize precisely that.
So while Antichrist is a bad film, it is not a bad film. It is a powerful and very unsettling depiction of a world where according to von Trier, a self-admitted atheist and Nietzsche admirer, only pain and evil are eternal.
Dafoe and Gainsbourg deliver notably brave performances. The latter, in particular, is so good, she actually does look possessed. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle's (The Last King of Scotland) lensing - a mix of cool black and white footage for the prologue and other parts of the film, and rich but cold color footage - is stunning.
Fragments from Georg Friedrich Handel's "Lascia ch'io pianga" from the composer's classic Italian opera Rinaldo, performed by Tuva Semmingsen and Barokksolistene, appear during key scenes in the film.
Note: In 2009, Antichrist won Best Actress award (Charlotte Gainsbourg) at the Cannes Film Festival. Earlier this year, the film also won four Bodil awards, including Best Film, Best Actress, and Best Actor (Willem Dafoe).
Antichrist Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Lars von Trier's Antichrist arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The film was shot in 4K resolution with the RED One Digital Camera; in addition, the Phantom HD camera was used for the high-speed sequences. The entire production was completed in a fully digital workflow. Postproduction and color timing were done using Assimilate's SCRATCH and Nucoda's Film Master systems. The final color-corrected DPX files were output to Rec. 709 high-definition color space for Blu-ray and DVD release.
Digital color timing: Stefan Ciupek, Dirk Meier/Nordic Film Lab, Copenhagen.
Supervised by: Anthony Dod Mantle; Peter Hjorth/Nordic Film Lab, Copenhagen."
This is a very strong high-definition transfer. As far as I could tell, it is also practically identical to the one French distributors M6 used for their Blu-ray release of Antichrist. Clarity, contrast, and detail are often manipulated to enhance the transitions between the two worlds He and She share. Additionally, during a few of the darker scenes there is some inherited softness. The prominent colors, such as the variety of greens and grays for instance, are once again remarkably cool, at times even cold. The reds, however, appear slightly richer here in comparison to the M6 release. Lastly, this high-definition transfer is encoded in 1080p, as opposed to the one M6 used, which is encoded in 1080/50i. For the record, while viewing Antichrist I did not detect any purely technical anomalies to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Antichrist Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The 5.1 surround soundtrack is identical to the theatrical mix. It was remastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.
Indeed, the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is solid. Surround activity is rather limited, but the audio does convey wonderful depth and fluidity. Additionally, Handel's beautiful music enhances the sense of paranoia exceptionally well. Lastly, I did not detect any purely technical anomalies with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track to report in this review.
Antichrist Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Interviews - a gallery of interviews with director Lars von Trier, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Willem Dafoe:
-- Confessions about anxiety - director Lars von Trier discusses the controversial message of his film. In English, with imposed French subtitles. In English, not subtitled. (5 min, 1080i).
-- Charlotte etc. - a long and very informative conversation with Charlotte Gainsbourg. The actress discusses her role, Lars von Trier's film and the controversy surrounding it. In French, with optional English subtitles. (44 min, 1080i).
-- Willem Dafoe: Agent of Fantasy - Willem Dafoe discusses his work with Lars von Trier, the challenges the script for Antichrist presented to him, his interaction with Charlotte Gainsbourg, some of the explicit scenes from the film, etc. In English, not subtitled. (19 min, 1080p).
Commentary - this is the same audio commentary with Professor Murray Smith from University of Kent in the United Kingdom and director Lars von Trier that appears on the French Blu-ray release of Antichrist. Generally speaking, this is a very informative, well conducted, and perhaps also a bit controversial conversation that deconstructs the story of Antichrist, its unorthodox message, etc. The commentary was recorded in Copenhagen in 2009. In English, not subtitled.
The Making of Antichrist - a gallery of supplemental features, produced by Zentropa's DVD production company, Electric Parc, featuring director Lars von Trier and various members of his tech team, including director of photography Anthony Dod Mantle, sound designer Kristian Eidnes Andersen, production designer Karl "Kalli" Juliusson, producer Meta Louise Foldager, researcher Heidi Laura, etc. In Danish and English, with optional English subtitles where necessary.
-- Behind the test film - (7 min, 1080i).
-- Visual style - (16 min, 1080i).
-- Sound and music - (13 min, 1080i).
-- Eden-production design - (6 min, 1080i).
-- Makeup effects and props - (9 min, 1080i).
-- The three beggars - (9 min, 1080i).
-- The evil of woman - (8 min, 1080i).
Cannes 2009 - footage from the film's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009. The focus of attention is on the the film's reception by the critics and the press. In French, Danish and English, with optional English subtitles where necessary.
-- Chaos reigns at the Cannes Film Festival - (8 min, 1080i).
-- Charlotte Gainsbourg at Cannes - (7 min, 1080i).
-- Willem Dafoe at Cannes - (9 min, 1080i).
Trailers - In English, not subtitled.
-- Trailer 1 - (3 min, 1080p).
-- Trailer 2 - (3 min, 1080p).
-- Trailer 3 - (3 min, 1080i).
Booklet - a 30-page illustrated booklet containing Ian Christie's essay "All Those Things That Are to Die" (the author is a professor of film and media history at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a fellow of the British Academy. He has written many books on Russian, British, and American cinema, including Arrows of Desire: The Films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, The Film Factory, and Scorsese on Scorsese).
Antichrist Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Danish director Lars von Trier's Antichrist is without a doubt the most disturbing film to appear on Blu-ray since the format was launched. It is difficult to like, but it isn't difficult to appreciate. As expected, Criterion have put together a fantastic package for it - the film looks and sounds terrific, and all of the supplemental features from the French Blu-ray release have been ported. Indeed, VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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