I have heard that Antichrist is a very controversial film. I have also heard others claim that it is far-removed from being controversial. After viewing it tonight, I think that those naysayers very likely fell asleep before the controversial part kicked in.
First of all, it has a very pretty art house-style opening. Sex in any horror film is always a prelude to something bad happening, and in this case the baby went right out the window. This sets the stage for the next 90 minutes.
He (Willem Dafoe) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) - and yes, the characters don't actually have names - begin the grieving process. Well, She grieves, He observes and tries to help since he's a psychologist by trade and smarter than her pill-pushing doctor.
So we start with 20 minutes of alternating therapy speeches and sex. Eventually He decides that sex with a wife who just lost her only child is a bad idea and bringing her to the place she fears most is a much better way to cope, so we are treated to another 20 minutes of alternating therapy speeches and hiking.
Once they arrive at the cabin, a few omens begin to pepper the action. Lots of dead or dying young animals, crying baby dreams, and nightly showers of acorns. We actually hear the word "Satan" uttered for the first time and learn that She once started a thesis study on the persecution of witches. She is also now prone to some severe mood swings.
Eventually He opens an envelope and reads a letter which is apparently a letter from the director instructing him that it is now his turn to develop some deep psychological issues. This is short-lived, however, and very shortly She regains the title of being the crazier of the two.
The film then takes a twist from "psychological art film thriller" to "hard core porn with bloody ejaculations" after She comes to the conclusion that women are evil by nature. I'm not kidding.
Finally, about eighty minutes into the film, things finally start to get interesting. And a little confusing.
No, make that a lot confusing. It seems to attempt to explain everything toward the end, but it is still fairly vague. I "got it", but I couldn't tell you quite how I "got it".
I just didn't feel that there was much of a payoff for as long as I sat watching pretty scenery and listening to psycho-babble. Not even the obviously controversial scenes really made up for it, even though I was sincerely hoping that they would.
The acting was fine. The characters were believable when they were in believable situations, and Gainsbourg was certainly able to out-crazy Dafoe. The pretty scenes that weren't set to music seemed to be drawn out too long, which planted this firmly as an "art house film" in my mind. The violence was cringe-worthy and at some points creative.
However, how all these things were combined just didn't play out well. It's one of those films that I think might have been better as a short film.
Film information: Antichrist