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A couple is grieving the death of their young son. The mother is initially admitted to hospital following the incident, but her husband - a therapist - insists on taking her to their remote forest cabin, 'Eden', and looking after her himself. They immerse themselves in nature and act out their deep suffering in a sequence of increasingly bizarre and brutal rituals.
For more about Antichrist and the Antichrist Blu-ray release, see the Antichrist Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 19, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Director: Lars von Trier
» See full cast & crew
Antichrist Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 19, 2009
Danish director Lars von Trier's controversial film "Antichrist" (2009) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors M6. Amongst the special features on the disc is an audio commentary in English with director Lars von Trier and Professor Murray Smith from University of Kent; an interview with Willem Dafoe; an informative conversation with French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg; footage from the Cannes Film Festival; and much more. With optional French subtitles. Region-B "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 Bosch…" 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 1080/50i transfer, Lars von Trier's Antichrist arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors M6.
Antichrist has a very unique look. Clarity, contrast and detail are often heavily manipulated in order to emphasize the type of emotions He and She struggle with, as well as to distinguish the two separate worlds they enter. The color-scheme is also uncharacteristic - when She begins to recall her fears, Antichrist has what I could only describe as a "dreamy look". Grays, greens, browns, blacks and whites are almost always cool, even cold. Macroblocking is not a serious issue of concern. There are no disturbing flecks, scratches, debris, or dirt that I detected either. The film is encoded in 1080i50, but motion judder isn't noticeable.
(Note: There are a couple of things that I would like to mention to those of you who may wish to import Antichrist in the U.S. This is a Region-Free disc, but because it is encoded in 1080i50, a standard not supported by the overwhelming majority of Blu-ray players and TV sets in the U.S., I am going to flag it as Region-B "locked". This being said, certain Region-Free Blu-ray players (for example, the Oppo) will convert the 1080i50 signal to 1080, and you will be able to access the disc's content without a problem).
Antichrist Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. For the record, the French subtitles are optional. When turned on, the French subtitles split the image frame and the black bar below it.
I have absolutely no reservations with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track whatsoever. The dialog is crisp, clear and very easy to follow. The surround activity is limited - aside from Handel's music, and some of the eerie winds from the forest, there really isn't much else that you would notice. There are no disturbing pops, cracks, or hissings to report in this review.
Antichrist Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Charlotte etc. - a long and very informative conversation with Charlotte Gainsbourg. The actress talks about her role, Lars von Trier's film and the controversy surrounding it. In French, not subtitled in English. (44 min).
Antichrist au Festival de Cannes - raw footage from the Cannes Film Festival. There are a few quick comments from director Lars von Trier (in English), Charlotte Gainsbourg (in French) and Willem Dafoe (in English). With imposed French subtitles. (14 min).
Interview de Willem Dafoe - Willem Dafoe talks about 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, with imposed French subtitles. (9 min).
Confessions de Lars von Trier - director Lars von Trier talks about the controversial message of his film. In English, with imposed French subtitles. (5 min).
L'identite visuelle du film - director of photography Anthony Dod Mantle talks about the level of naturalism in Antichrist, the specific type of look desired by director Lars von Trier, how some of the most controversial scenes were shot, etc. In English, with imposed French subtitles. (16 min).
L'identite musicale du film - sound designer Kristian Eidnes Andersen talks about the unique sounds used throughout the film. In Danish, with imposed French subtitles. (13 min).
La creation des decors - production designer Karl "Kalli" Juliusson, producer Meta Louise Foldager and director Lars von Trier talk about the specific locations used in the film. In English and Danish, with imposed French subtitles. (6 min).
La femme, instrument du diable - researcher Heidi Laura and director Lars von Trier talk about the mythological and theological context of the film. In English, with imposed French subtitles. (8 min).
La pre-production - a look at the pre-production work. In Danish, with imposed French subtitles. (7 min).
Les trois mendiants - animal handler Ota Bares talks about the animals used in the film. In English, with imposed French subtitles. (9 min).
Effets speciaux et protheses - a look at the special effects. In English, with optional French subtitles. (9 min).
Commentary - an audio commentary with Professor Murray Smith from University of Kent in the United Kingdom and director Lars von Trier. This is a very informative, well conducted, and perhaps also a bit controversial conversation that deconstructs the story of Antichrist, its unorthodox message, etc. In English, with imposed French subtitles.
Antichrist Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Bold and unconventional, Lars von Trier's Antichrist is not for the meek! Though expertly done, the film will fail to resonate with those who are not immune to human suffering. The Blu-ray disc herein reviewed, courtesy of French distributors M6, looks and sounds very good. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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