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JulyDiaz

Episode 68 - Antichrist (w/ Michael Lerman)

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Wow, this is a tough one. For Von Trier, I'd put "Dogville", "Dancer", and (my favorite) "Melancholia" over "Antichrist", but this isn't an either/or episode.

 

After I first saw this movie my thought was that it was one of those that I enjoyed, but I never wanted to watch it again. I did for this podcast, and still feel the same way about it. I don't think repeatability is necessary for admittance to The Canon, but I get such a visceral reaction on this. But not in a deep way. "Melancholia" hits me on such a profoundly personal level, and I just don't get that from "Antichrist". Ugh, I'm not being very eloquent here.

 

In spite of your compelling arguments in the episode, I'm with Amy and am leaning on "no" for this one. It is a symbolic and meaningful movie that sparks thought and discussion, and that's everything that I love; yet it still does not quite hit the mark for me. I've never said to anyone, "You simply HAVE to see Antichrist." I'm in the "no" camp, but it's not a very strong "no".

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I vote no on this movie. I will say I thought this movie had some beautiful shots, and the acting, as expected, was great. But I don't think it deserves a spot on the canon.

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I vote a soft yes. I've always been a bit critical of Lars von Trier, mainly because of the reasons I've posted in the Homework threat, back at Wolfpop. I'm still unsure of the merits of this film, but hey, I guess it's been influential enough to legitimate an inclusion in the Canon. Also, you guys made me think that I totally wanna listen to more discussions about this flick. I think this one and Melancholia are the two best films of his late period. By the way: If Antichrist gets included, can we kick out Cannibal Holocaust instead? Also, polls suck, because I really enjoy reading some of the answers in here, which might get lost if people just can click on a button. and I like the thought that it takes some more effort to build an opinion about a film, than just polling yes or no.

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Soft yes. I adore Von Trier but ANTICHRIST left me a bit cold. I think it's the open-ended nature of its themes, as you guys discuss. It's almost as if there are too many different ways to read it. Most of his other films are emotional gut-punches for me; this one feels weirdly restrained. But I'm not voting against it, so yeah, put it in!

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Yes and yes on the inclusion to the canon. The number of no's here is shocking. It is a brilliant technical achievement, masterfully acted, thematically rich, and provocative. What is there to not like in that list? It isn't everyone's cup of tea. Certainly. But a work being canonical is not the same as it being likable. It is a matter of artistic depth, vision, and contextual importance. How can one not think this qualifies? The mind boggles.

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I'm having very conflicted feelings on this film after having just watched it. I initially voted yes on the poll because I do think it is a rather bold honest work, but it's not as bare as Melancholia in my view and I did enjoy the film but I don't know if it's good enough to really deserve a spot. I guess I'd say I liked over half of what it does, but it's just not enough for me to really feel confident giving it a yes. Sorry guys I think I got to go no.

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Yes. It's a challenging but beautiful film, and thats what makes it canon worthy. And it's absolutely a horror film

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So many new members coming over from the Canon! Welcome

 

I'm an avid listener and vote on occasion but yeesh, the Wolfpop forums were awful. They were behind the time for forums in the the late 90's, truly awful layout.

 

Hopefully Devin and Amy can contribute a little easier over here from time to time.

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Voting no.

 

Great conversation in this episode and the film deserves deep, smart discussion. I like Lars von Trier a lot as a film maker. It's beautifully shot, he got great performances in tough conditions, and it's certainly a film and subject that makes the viewer think. Ultimately, I agree with Amy's conclusion that it just isn't quite there. I admit I have high standards for what belongs in the Canon though; I voted against Fail Safe, O Brother, Oldboy and many others that people felt were easy winners.

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NO. I don't have anything against being provocative, but I think there's a difference between exploring your issues through film and taking your issues out on your audience. Maybe I just misunderstand what his goal was.

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I vote yes, not only does this movie distill and present Von Trier at his purest. It approaches the themes of sex, gender, religion, nature and perhaps god as an umbrella in a way, and it does so with an honesty that is not found in other similarly themed films. Antichrist is easily Von Trier's best, only contested by Dancer In the Dark (one film I remember truly breaking me) and I believe it fulfills a lot of his goals as a film maker, though I am no authority on his intentions. It seems to me his features since: Melancholia, Nymphomaniac, have declined in meandering around these themes but not quite sticking in any one point fully enough to truly bring out an honest clarity in the way Antichrist did. I do have a predisposition for discussion of religion/existence and the like, so perhaps that is why it resonates with me on a deeper level, but there is much more here than is presented, and it should absolutely be in the canon.

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Yes. I thought it was beautiful to look at and interesting on more levels than I'm used to in a film. Having said that, I'm at a crossroads on whether or not to do research before watching the film/films of the week. On the one hand, I like going in completely blind and being pleasantly surprised or disappointed. But, on the other, I would be more prepared for, well you know.

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I have to vote NO. No, I CHOOSE to vote "NO".

 

It's not a film made without talent. But (all Scalia-like) I gotta go back to the original meaning of "The Canon".

 

Is this a film ANYONE has to see to understand the history of cinema? Clearly, no. This is, from the start, a very, VERY niche arthouse flick.

 

Is this a film that has been very influential on future movies? Evidence is very, very wanting.

 

Is this a film that represents a significant stepping stone in the gradual progress of moviemaking? Again, there is no evidence pointing to this.

 

Does this film represent the very best work of a significant figure in cinema? No. This isn't even Von Trier's best film. I'd take Breaking the Waves or Melancholia over this one, no question.

 

OK, so I don't know all the categories of the "original meaning of 'The Canon'". But I think these four points are illustrative enough.

 

Small Canon voter votes NO. It's not an especially notable film, it's not an especially (or even remotely) popular film, it's not a film of its time, it's not a career best. It's not really that notable. It's just hardcore arthouse. And, no, that's not enough.

 

 

I'm an avid listener and vote on occasion but yeesh, the Wolfpop forums were awful. They were behind the time for forums in the the late 90's, truly awful layout.

 

Hopefully Devin and Amy can contribute a little easier over here from time to time.

 

Yeah, I have to concur with this. I've only been active in Greater Internetsylvania's forum community since maybe 2003, but the Wolfpop forums were my very first experience with non-editable, non-image-posting, weird bottom-to-top forum....whatevers. I didn't pick up a 1990s vibe (obviously, because I couldn't), but it was fifty shades of wrong all the same. Forums need to be flexible, and Earwolf looks like a major improvement. I look forward to being able to create many far more intricate and meaningful posts here, now that I can actually post, then edit. Seriously, I can't function without that. And thirteen (at least) year old technology.

 

Not hating. I don't know what the tech restrictions were on Wolfpop. But....long-term, it just couldn't survive for long. The move to Earwolf is a godsend.

 

That said, let's move this ***** further up. The Canon was second-from-the-top on Wolfpop. Let's all fight to get it moved up on Earwolf. The Canon was EASILY the most popular forum on Wolfpop. How does it compare on Earwolf? I'm thinking - give it a couple weeks for the transition - it'll be one of the most popular here too. Give it some prime real estate, Earwolf! It'll be SOOOO worth it.

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I vote YES. Cue a long winded post.

 

I wasn’t planning on watching this one due to time constraints, but the episode discussion was interesting and late Tuesday night I sat down after leaving some friends (and a few whiskey drinks) to watch before I went to bed. (Netflix version, the “full frontal”.) I nursed one more beer thought the movie and had a notepad on hand for write down my reactions & thoughts. And then I watched it again when I woke up before work so make sure I hadn’t been skewed in my first impressions.

 

So the fact that I didn’t pass out or nod off either time is the first credit to the film. Devin was right, it is a consistently engaging piece of cinema, impressively so considering its just two characters with long stretches of silence.

 

Part of that is due to the horror tropes Von Triers plays with here, this movie has all the signifiers of an Evil Dead movie – Cabin in the woods, lower leg impalement, there’s even rough sex amid the gnarled roots of a sinister tree! Yes, Von Tier isn’t doing a Raimi homage, but he’s smart enough to use the trapping of cinema to engage viewers in want he knows will be a rough ride through human psyche and gender politics.

 

And that’s the part seems to kill this movie for people, but it what makes it interesting. Yes it is a nihilistic view of male/female relationships, that they can never truly be intimate, only destructive to each other. But what sets this apart from other takes on the same material is that Von Tier personalizes and acknowledges his own culpability in that failure of connection, how his own fears fuel that divide.

 

Dafoe, “He”, can’t enter her frame of reference, because he can’t let go of his view of the world – this is Von Trier’s own block, he is a director, his “narrative” must impose over what’s actually there. And “She” is alien to ”He” because he can’t fathom her, so she becomes his fears made manifest. His interpretation of something he can’t connect with. She is unknowable to “He” and the unknowable is scary to the uncomprehending. So “She” becomes a figure of horror in his eyes (and by extension the movie) when it becomes clear he’s never going to “get” her. Anti-Christ.

 

So playing off all that, here’s the thing that I can’t keep thinking about and wondering: Is anything at Eden real? The attack, “She” admitting she let the child die, any of the third act even. Or are we seeing “He” ’s interpretation of what happened? Did “He” actually make the cut? If we accept that the film and specifically “He” is Von Trier’s own worst views on women, can we trust any of we are seeing here? She ends up dead, but in a way that makes her the villain and him the victim. But are we actually seeing just “He” ‘s rationalization of all this?

 

That may be me reaching, overthinking it in 1st year film student kinda of way, but its Gainsbourg’s performance that really makes me wonder on it. If there’s one thread throughout the performance it’s that she is someone who is desperately trying to communicate with “He”, but just can’t seem to get through. He can’t see, or hear, or he instead re-contextualizes any attempt to fit his narrative. “You’re off script, honey, here, let me show you…” She just can’t make him connect. There’s this look of despairing frustration always on her face. Even the sex feels like her giving up and settling for a physical connection to get through, for something, anything. If you watch it again, look for this. At the end it doesn't even feel like her words she's speaking, it feels like his interpretation being vocalized instead, using her vocal cords.

 

SIDE NOTE: If you were going to be an actor and wanted a long career, you’d want to be Dafoe. With that face and voice, he will work until he dies. His acting value was never sold on beauty. One of those guys you just take for granted after a while, but he’s usually the best thing in his films (side part or not) and he plays in relief to Gainsbourg wonderfully here.

 

So yes, I think it should be in the Canon. Looking aside the direction and the acting (both excellent) if we look at art as an expression of the artist’ point of view, this effectively does that, unflinching so, warts and all. This doesn’t feel indulgent like Melancholia could at times (which kinda ends the world just so you could have a scenario where the clinically depressed could feel vindicated. But that’s another rant). This feels painful honest, exposingly so. Is it ugly? Yep. Do I subscribe to his views? Nope! But Von Trier doesn’t hide that it’s his worst aspects given form. There’s a lot of directors I love more than Von Trier, but I cant imagine any of them exposing themselves as unflattering as this (and I’m not talking about “ha, look at what an ass I am” on Curb Your Enthusiasm type-appearances either).

 

Is it re-watchable? Will I pop it in over and over for years to come. Not likely, but I don’t think that’s criteria for everlasting film. Some points only have to prick once. (But I will show it to newlywed friends, gleefully).

 

Some highlights from the notes of my viewing, somewhat drunken scribbling (and the main reason I watched it again the next morning). For amusement purposes only, not evidence to sway your vote:

  • This is the weirdest opening to a Sin City movie. Frank Miller has lost his goddamn mind.
  • LERMAN! LEHHMAN! (This was during the shot of those stems in the bedside vase, I think I was remembering Micheal’s water theory from the episode.)
  • “Well, Actually…” sounds like the title of the ultimate Hugh Grant vehicle.
  • the fantastic mr fox IS eating himself
  • The Captain’s Log!
  • Big wheel keep on turning!
  • Amy was right. (I don’t see them as ever being an actual emotionally intimate couple at any point)
  • Oh, Lars

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It's funny that Devin Faraci hates on "well actually" guys that talk down to women when he might the biggest examples of that guy. I love movies and movie discussion but Faraci is unlistenable. Put me in the camp of Amy's friends

 

Having interacting and watched others interact with Devin online, he's equal opportunity condescender. Amy is sort of his perfect foil because she's got super interesting, well researched opinions that are often borderline crazy, some of which seem centered on the positive or negative portrayal of people with blonde hair in cinema. It's fun to listen to her wind him up without even trying that hard.

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No.

 

I don't think just because someone is "working through" their own misogyny in a transparent way (which I'm not even sure is actually the case) does not absolve him of that misogyny. I'm glad that Charlotte Gainsbourg is happy to go along, but it doesn't change the inherent ugliness at the center of this film. I'm not a Lars hater, but all of his movies keep me at a distance with their hatred for humanity and their darkness. He has always felt very sparse and robotic to me which is probably why Dogville works so well. It's form exists in that perfect space that overlaps with my feelings regarding the director. In the end he is "deep-seeming" without actually being deep and Antichrist is a perfect example of pushing a simple metaphor and making generalized assertions seem profound.

 

The movie is well put together, has some gorgeous cinematography and interesting sound design. The story is hollow and nothing the characters do is believable to me, but that is the artifice that Von Trier brings to most of his films.

 

I do agree however that just because he has made better films that that should not disqualify something like this film from inclusion in the Canon. That being said, when I watch something like Antichrist (or Fail Safe) I can't help but think of those other movies that have impressed me more. My favorite Von Trier film is the semi-documentary The Five Obstructions. An amazing work of filmmaking and tender friendship. I often can't believe he directed it because I feel like it goes against his purported worldview. It's quality may have a lot to do with the participation of Jorgen Leth.

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I haven't seen Antichrist yet. I've been enjoying listening to the show and catching up on old episodes. The reason for this post has NOTHING to do with Antichrist. At the end of the podcast, Devin said something I couldn't believe. I don't know if he was being serious or not, but he suggested doing 1776 as an episode if a live episode in Philly happened.

 

I LOVE 1776. As a kid, I watched the awful VHS short version, where you couldn't see the entire frame so many times. The performance of William Daniels is so amazing he sparked am an interest in John Adams that I carry to this day. Once the DVD came out and showed the film in widescreen with the extended cut, I appreciated it even more.

 

I don't know if it's "Canon Worthy" but it certainly makes it in the Canon of films that shaped my world. Love the show!

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