I thought I was being super clever and edgy by choosing Antichrist as my final movie for Halloween. It was something that I had never seen before and knew very little about beyond the fact that it made my friends’ toes curl; if it makes them squirm then it must be a pretty note worthy movie! Let’s just say that they are my go-to crowd for horror and disturbing movie suggestions so I totally trust them.
Antichrist was directed by Lars von Trier in 2009. I knew it wasn’t going to be horror exactly in its traditional sense, but I was sure it would be anxiety-inducing as von Trier’s movies tend to be. Having seen Melancholia and having experienced his skills at teasing sheer irrational panic out of me, I looked forward to this older movie. Antichrist does carry a lot of similarities to Melancholia for those of you who have seen it. It focuses on the imagery, sound, and cinematography to invoke a sense of unease and restlessness.
Both movies do really well at drawing out this feeling that something isn’t right, a feeling of dissociation if you will. I’ve heard a lot of people complain that there’s a whole lot of nothing in these movies as they tend to move and feel slow, but I would argue that it’s done intentionally not to bore you but to continue nagging at you. The movie is still going, and you’re still upset about it because you’re impatient and forced to stare at these imagery focused moments of the movie where all time slows to a near stop. Both films are beautifully shot– Melancholia more so than its predecessor in my opinion.
But Antichrist didn’t invoke the anxiety out of me that I was hoping for. When I watched Melancholia I had the sensation dissociation follow me for the rest of the night. The end of the movie terrified me, not because I was scared of it, but because I related to it on such a deep level. When you have anxiety like me you get it. Anxiety is like a nagging sense of unease that sits in the back of your mind. Sometimes it’s quiet; sometimes it’s loud. Both Melancholia and Antichrist capture this perfectly. But Antichrist only captures. It doesn’t deliver that final punch like Melancholia does.
Unfortunately, the movie alienated itself from its audience. It centers around a grieving couple in the aftermath of the death of their toddler. The wife is crazy (shocking), and the husband is the sane, intelligent, therapist (wow still so shocking). So off to the woods they go because the husband was under the impression that he could better deal with his wife’s grief and mental instability than an actual doctor who went to school to understand the chemistry of medication and the brain. Sometimes there are things that therapy can’t just fix, like a person in the midst of psychosis like the wife. On several occasions, there were moments where this therapist should have had alarm bells ringing in his head.
One moment the wife will be desperate for death, banging her head on the toilet until she bleeds for example, and at the drop of a hat she’ll be hot and heavy and begging for sex. She’s unstable and clearly out of touch with reality as she continues to pulsate back and forth between the two states of mind. So her husband thinks, no, medication is not the best path. Let’s try cognitive behavioral therapy.
This movie did exactly what horrible slasher films do. It made the main character(s), the husband in this case, stupid and oblivious to all common sense in hopes that the viewer won’t notice the gaping holes, poor research, and inconsistencies.
Having said that I can honestly say that this movie was just out to get a rise out of people rather than really get under their skin. In that regard it’s odd that both Antichrist and Melancholia came from the director. While they carry a lot of similarities, the later movie was so much more well put together and thought out.
So Antichrist or Melancholia? Definitely, Melancholia as it got more of a rise out of me.
If you want to see something disturbing go for Antichrist.
If you want to feel something disturbing go for Melancholia.