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Director Lars von Trier has created a truly pulverizing film with Antichrist. It is full of dread, full of despair. It is a horror film, but it doesn’t rely on easy scares or the cheap theatrics of B movies. It is a distant cousin to the director’s previous work Dancer in the Dark, in that it is a wholly original vision that also works as a razor sharp deconstruction of the genre it belongs to.

The story is simple. A man and a woman (played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) make love, while their infant son accidentally falls to his death. They take their grief to a cabin in the woods where tensions build and slowly turn into horror. Taking into account that brief plot description, you can see the classic horror film scenario: Two lovers, a secluded location and a sin that calls for bloody retribution. Yes, the trappings of the genre are there, but von Trier does not bow down to narrative expectations.

Controversy surrounding this film is not unfounded, and this is certainly not a movie for the weak of heart or for people whose moods can significantly be affected by film. Antichrist is a horror picture, a dead serious one, about overwhelming guilt and despair. Like many films and many philosophies, nature is framed as an uncaring and violent spectre, but von Trier takes the idea a little further and presents the idea that nature is inherently evil, because nature is Satan’s church. We are all unwilling worshippers of sin. Then, there is the violence. It manifests itself as physical, psychological, sexual and sometimes a combination of it all. This movie does not shy away from the profane. It is explicit in its depictions of wanton sexuality and bodily harm.

Some critics accuse von Trier of having created a blisteringly misogynistic film, but I do not think they were paying close enough attention. It’s a polarizing film for sure, and it is not something that you idly watch. You must endure Antichrist.

Despite its content, it is an unnaturally beautiful film. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (2009 Oscar winner for Slumdog Millionaire) takes this psychosexual nightmare and makes it a work of moving art. For any cineaste that has forgotten that von Trier is quite a brilliant technical craftsman, Antichrist is a great reminder.