Sunday, 31 May 2009

Antichrist by Lars von Trier: Interpretation

© Zentropa Entertainment 2009

I saw Antichrist prepared for a gothic/horror fantasy! I wasn’t disappointed – there’s no reason to take this film too seriously. It’s a sumptuous, sexy and contrived piece of symbolism about men and women, and their roles in Western society. And it’s very silly too!

Initially I thought the film was misogynist – and that’s a common opinion. I wrote the following interpretation of the film’s view of its lady lead (named ’she’) and of what drives her, and have to some extent changed my opinion.

Spoilers obviously...

The film opens with a couple’s child falling to its death, while they have passionate sex. For a while the film appears to be an investigation into the patterns of grief. This proves to be very wrong – I think ’guilt’ is the overarching theme. The guilt turns out to be about the original sin of Eve in the Garden of Eden.

There are two important revelations, that I choose to highlight to illustrate this: 1.: We learn that ’she’ saw her son before he fell and could have stopped him. 2: ’She’ spent a summer in ’Eden’, their cabin in the woods, alone with her son, where she every day switched his shoes to the wrong foot, causing permanent damage to his feet. During this time she was writing a thesis about historical murders of women, including witch burnings.

I argue that the two lead characters are archetypes of Western gender roles - this could be supported by the fact that they are merely called 'he' and 'she'. He is intellectually superior to her and attempts to control her emotional ’insanity’ with reason throughout the film. She has tried to break free of this cultural restriction/pattern through her thesis (intellectuality) as well as her aggressive 'masculine' sexuality. She acted out her contempt towards the power of men on her son (the shoes - hindering his activity) and maybe even through her complete indifference to being a mother while having sex, as the boy fell to his death.

Tragically she drives her husband to kill her and burn her like a witch, thus enforcing the power she was fighting and punishing her for her ’rebellion’. I think she does it to herself - she ends up believing that the rebellious female must be punished and de-sexualized, because of her part in the death of the son. The fact that she mutilates both her husband’s and her own genitals, is an attempt to reverse the original sin, by making them both ’innocent’ in Eden again.

The film ends with him killing her and leaving the woods. Three animals greet him on his way and he smiles at them – showing affinity with them. Here I felt the most discomfort on behalf of women - does it mean that nature is male...? Western nature is male – or rather, misogyny has become our human nature?

This is good sport and interesting cinema and possibly quite offensive...