LARS VON TRIER –
WILLEM DAFOE – CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG – ANTICHRIST(O) – 2009
This film is not a very great
film, even if it is very well done. It is the story of a couple with an
important age difference, a professor and a doctorate student with a young child,
a toddler actually. One night when they make hectic love in the bathroom, on
the washing machine, in the living room, etc, the child wakes up and they do
not hear the call in the baby surveillance unit that might not have been on. He
gets out of his bed, through the baby gate, sees his parents, goes back to his
room, pushes a chair to the table, climbs on the chair, then on the table, then
on the window ledge because the window is open. There is snow there because it
is snowing. He slips and falls. The film is the story of the mother’s subsequent
depression treated by her husband who is supposed to be a head shrink.
This is the fundamental mistake.
A psycho-therapy cannot be performed by a person directly connected to the
patient: members of the family and above all sexual partners. He knows that because
he tries to cut sex off, but he cannot resist to her neurosis or psychosis that
is taking hold of her and forces sex onto him as a poison for herself.
The second mistake is to isolate
with her in a mountain cabin far from everything and any communication line. He
broke there the normal procedure in which the relation doctor-patient has to
remain within the frame of a socially situated and defined setting, method,
process, with help within easy reach.
These two mistakes become
dramatic when he discovers the mother had systematically and probably for a
long time put the shoes left side right on the feet of the baby. He knew
something was wrong because of the autopsy performed on the child that noted a deformity
in the feet, which could explain the accident on the window ledge. You add that
deformity to the fact that the window was open and rather easily reachable and
you have a criminal scenario, maybe unconscious but definitely from a criminal
mind. The man finds confirmation of this “torturing” with pictures of the child
on which the shoes are always right side left. He finds these pictures in their
isolation, and then this guilt gets into her head and she becomes convinced she
has to do something to purge it.
The doctor and husband should
have known that she was to come to this breaking point for various reasons:
1- The torturing reveals she
wanted to make the child suffer and hence felt guilty about the birth and
presence of the child, hence about having sex with the older professor.
2- The fact that they were making
love when the child “committed suicide” makes her responsible at first (“it’s
my fault” she says at the beginning) and her guilt getting bigger she will
shift this guilt from her to him who forced her to have sex when the child was
3- Her desire to have rough sex,
even hurtful sex at the end shows that she considers sex coming from him is and
has to be a violent process, that she has been forced into it, that she was
raped, and that explained how and why she tortured the child.
4- Then she will have to torture
him and eventually kill him to alleviate her own guilt, and that will be
justice for her since he is the “bastard.”
The whole story is wrapped up in
some kind of myth. The myth of the three beggars, represented by a fox, a deer
(that has to be a doe) and a bird of prey. When the three beggars come together
someone has to die. She tells him about the myth. And in his own torture (she
has screwed up a sharpening stone into his left leg to prevent him from
escaping and also with a very obvious sexual innuendo: to sterilize him, to
make him impotent without castrating him) he sees visions and he finally sees
her lying with the fox, the deer and the bird of prey, and he knows she will
kill him. So by some miraculous turn of the screw in the story he recuperates
the wrench she had hidden under the cabin (suspend you disbelief one minute)
and in spite of her trying to stop him he manages to get the sharpening stone
off his leg and he strangles her, then burns the body (to prevent her being
scavenged by animals of prey, shall we say). His escape becomes a futuristic
vision that has little value: the myth of the resurrection of the hundreds if
not thousands of dead bodies buried in the forest and they come from behind him
alive and rejuvenated and overtake him and we can then wonder if he is still
alive or if he has joined the resuscitated crowd, whose resurrection was called
by the killing of the curse of the three beggars.
The film though is a tragedy
brought by some insidious torturing of a child by his own mother, and then by
the absolutely absurd and unprofessional decision of the father and husband to
take over the psychological treatment of his wife himself, which is totally
forbidden by all codes of behavior and action in the psychiatric profession.
Lars von Trier decision to make
his characters make these mistakes is of course the fruit of his own twisted
mind that tortures his characters probably because he does not have the courage
to do it for real in his own life. The film must have a cathartic dimension for
him. But the film has not cathartic dimension for the audience because we would
never, for those who are doctors in a way or another, do this mistake. It
becomes then a warning, a road sign saying: “ROAD TO HELL” and you better know
you must not take it.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU