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The film Antichrist (2009) is one that I was unsure of before watching it, not only for it's reputation, but also for the "anti-award" bestowed upon it by the Cannes Jury for being misogynistic. As a fan of Lars von Trier's other works (namely the Dogme 95 movement, and Nymphomaniac (2014)) I decided to brave watching the film, and after doing so I can safely say that Cannes were wrong. Antichrist (2009) is a film starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a couple who lose their only child, and travel out to the forest, where strange things begin happening. Not only is the film strongly feminist, much like a lot of von Trier's work, it is also not gratuitous, or more not pointless in it's use of graphic imagery.

Expanding on my first point, the misogynistic aspects of von Trier's film were called into question due to two factors:
  1. A scene containing female genital mutilation
  2. A "misogyny researcher" that is present in the credits
These two aspects of the film have been taken out of context. The use of graphic violence against women in this film is to show the persecution of women throughout history, hence the character names ("Him" and "Her") being strictly based upon gender. Yes the film shows how horrifically a man can treat a woman, and how horrifically a woman can treat a man, but it is not a misogynistic film, for it does not persecute women, it portrays their persecution. The film is also quite clearly not misogynistic as "Her" is a much more interesting character, she is much meatier, we are more interested in "Her" than "Him", which to me does not scream misogyny.

On my second point, the notorious graphic violence in the film is not used in such a way that it is pointless, much like in the films of Quentin Tarantino, no in Antichrist (2009) the violence and gore is often used to emphasize a point, I will not give any of these away as it would take away from the shock of the film, but a memorable piece of violence shows the overthrowing of the patriarchy in a more shocking way than I have ever seen before on film. von Trier even manages to find art in the death of a child at the beginning of the film, shot much like one of Tarkovsky's dream sequences, I would say that this opening is like a macabre opening to Ivan's Childhood (1962), however the levitation is taken away, and gravity is used to devastating effect. The film is dedicated to Tarkovsky, and not without reason, the style and aesthetic of the film is very much a homage to Tarkovsky.

Another positive feature of the film comes with it's cleverness, the film uses references from mythology, and other films expertly, for example the use of fog in this film is reminiscent the Danish horror classic Vampyr (1932) by the Danish master, Carl Theodor Dreyer. von Trier is renounced genre cinema in his Dogme 95 manifesto, and this is in no way his return to genre cinema, no this film is to horror films what Dancer in the Dark (2000) was to musicals. The film's visual style is also clever, however I felt it was lacking something, and that something was Dogme 95. Had von Trier taken more of a Dogme approach, then the film would have been much more visually daring, maybe even rivaling Manderlay (2005) for it's visual genius, however apparently this was not possible due to personal issues, so it is forgivable.

Antichrist (2009) is not the first great film to be given hostility from the Cannes Jury, there is a Jean-Luc Godard quote which I believe aptly describes this film's relationship with Cannes - "I am talking of solidarity and you are speaking of tracking and panning, you are idiots." This film is one of the most visually striking films in the past decade, the only fault I could find in it was that I felt I wanted more handheld camera work, I believe that if the film had taken more of a Dogme 95 approach (not a complete Dogme work obviously) then it would have been even more visually unique. However nonetheless the film is marvelous, and a must see for those willing to push themselves.