Antichrist, the new horror-tinged film from director Lars von Trier screened at Cannes recently, and provoked one of the more intense reactions from the audiences seen at the film festival this year.
The audience reportedly alternated between jeering at the film and laughing at its dedication plate, in which Antichrist was committed to the memory of famed Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris), and in countering waves of applause. The film itself was apparently extreme, even by modern standards, with graphic scenes of genital mutilation, knee-drilling and other unsavoury activities.
The real drama unfolded outside of the general screening however, and in the press conference that followed the film. First out of the gate was the Daily Mail’s columnist Baz Bamigboye, who peculiarly demanded that von Trier justify why he had made the film. Von Trier, naturally, retorted that he didn’t have to justify his film, at which point Bamigboye claims that he lost his temper, and asked him again, “Why he has made a film that deserves to be flushed down a toilet rather than shown at the world’s most important film festival.” One US critic said that he found the film “offensive”, but it was von Trier’s response that was most puzzling.
“I work for myself and I don’t think I owe anybody an explanation. I never have a choice,” said the director, who previously won the coveted Palme d’Or Award at Cannes for Dancer In The Dark. “It’s like the hand of God and I am the best film director in the world. But I’m not sure if God is the best God in the world.”
Either way, it seems that Antichrist is in for a rough ride from the Cannes critics, with Roger Ebert stating on his blog that: “Von Trier is not so much making a film about violence as making a film to inflict violence upon us, perhaps as a salutary experience. It’s been reported that he suffered from depression during and after the film. You can tell. This is the most despairing film I’ve ever have [sic] seen.”
Antichrist is scheduled for release on 20 May 2009 in Denmark and in other territories on various other dates. The film stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, concentrating on a grieving couple who retreat to a cabin in order to deal with their loss and heal their marriage. Clearly, things don’t go according to plan.