Anti Christ (All of Europe according to imdb, 2009, Von Trier)
I'm going to begin this review with the critical observation you made yourself when you handed the disc to me. How dare he dedicate this film to Tarkovsky! At certain points he directly quotes the exterior formality of Tarkovsky's style, but these moments he includes in a presentation that fundamentally violates Tarkovsky's absolute devotion to the cinematic image. This absolute devotion is often for images with highly idiosyncratic symbolic content in already esoteric contexts. The audience is compelled to receive these as open-potential metaphors, out of which a meaningful interpretation is a challenge to construct. Interactive work of the most serious order is demanded of the viewer. There's no spoon-feeding whatsoever.
The inclusion of superficially Tarkovsky-looking bits in this film is a conceptual-artistic insult given that the film overall is a veritable bombast of visual nerve-tweaking and visceral overkill. The shock value is off the scale. But the extreme extent of it all does not make it transcend the fact that it's just more of the manipulation pioneered by Hitchcock. And hey, my comparision is really a disservice to Hitch, who must at least be respected as a master of narrative suspense. This film is entirely lacking such elegance. It relies solely on pure dread. Still, the present reference to Hitch is simply intended to seal the deal on my argument about this film being deeply NON-Tarkovskian. Spoon-feed? Hardly. It shovels itself upon us.
And that's just in terms of its form. To address the content of this film is to develop the thesis that it is ANTI-Tarkovskian. Again I point to Hitch. As you've heard me rant against what I take to be the anti-humanism operating throughout his oeuvre many times, I need not elaborate now. On the other hand, I am waiting for the academic who - not suffering from knee-jerk anti-Stalinism - will write the book on the dialectic of Tarkovsky's positive inheritance from the socialist project within his negative rejection of the revolution. Tarkovsky's medievalist nostalgia is not just reactionary. It signals a profoundly humanist disillusionment with ostensible progress. But the profound humanism remains. Hence, Tarkovsky's religiousity is basically empty with respect to theistic substance and centers essentially around an existentialism of sinfulness, a post-Bolshevik Dostoyevsky.
Nothing of the sort is available to us in the film under discussion. It's title notwithstanding, there is no moral reference point - period. Call me a prude but I have to side with the Sunday school types who would no doubt label it degenerate. I prefer the term decadant because for me it suggests a less individualistic, more general sociological decay. At some point, it behooves us to wonder what a work of art is reflecting about the culture at large, and this film is universal nihilism posing as a piece of personal psychosis. The nasty supernatural trappings are just that; pretentious window dressing, just the stuff to fool lots of reviewers into thinking the film is philosophically assertive. But given all the rest of the uber-grizzly fare, some of the supposedly occult implications about the natural world were sorta goofy; not full-out funny, but dorky nonetheless and therefore laughable. The ending is a head-scratcher, to be sure. But so what? We've been too badly brutalized to care. In short, it's just another horror movie folks.
I suppose it comes down to this. How horrible do you like your horror movies? Or let's try it this way: Even intellectuals deserve a good fright night every now and then, right? Next thing you know, we can be comfortable pointing out that both of the leads put in remarkable performances, and there is much sophistication to the cinematography, and blah blah blah... aesthetic rationalizations for ethically unacceptable fare. What was the name of that Asian film about the abused girl who comes back for toturous revenge? I thought it was a piece of sensationalistic shit but you tried to convince me that it had some sort of submerged feminist theme. Well that may be, but there is 100% no way this film could give anyone that impression. Even if the male is seen to be horrid in his own right, indicative of a general misanthropy in the film, the depiction of the female is nothing if not misogynous and this draws all of the terrible sexual violence into ideologically suspect territory, to put it mildly.
I could only look through the mesh of my fingers when the going got rough and eventually I fast forworded just to flash preview if I could actually watch the whole film. Much to my amazement, I did watch the whole thing. But you may have noticed that I have declined to speak the name of the film, or its director, in this review. I did not start out with this intention but I noticed it half way through writing and continued on purpose. This is a mere gesture on my part. So offended am I this time by the man whose praise I sang for the greatness that is Dogville.
I must being by acknowledging that I could not finish this film. I reached to point of drill to flesh penetration and bailed (largely cuz I'd heard rumours of what comes thereafter, and quickly realized I didn't have the stomach for it).
How dare he dedicate this film to Tarkovsky? How dare he show this film to ME!
Hmmm....as for the Tarkovsky thing, I can only thing that this is some sort of joke on von Trier's behalf. He's a bit of a loose cannon, this guy.
I wouldn't be so angry at von Trier if he wasn't such a brilliant film-maker.