At its core, director Lars von Trier's controversial ANTICHRIST is a horror film, but not the type of horror film a Friday night multiplex crowd would appreciate.
A toddler manages to get out of his crib and finds his way to an open window. As he falls to his death, his parents (Willem DaFoe and French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, listed in the credits as "He" and "She") have sex in the laundry room. Flash to the child's funeral: She passes out during the procession and is taken to a hospital. He (a psychiatrist) thinks they're treating her the wrong way and she eventually heeds his advice by flushing away her medication. When all of his talking fails to help, the couple head to a remote cabin in the woods where He begins a series of physical and mental tests, trying to get to the bottom of his wife's grief, fears and anxieties.
She had spent some time alone with their son at the cabin the previous summer as she worked on a thesis based around wtiches and how women were treated in the 16th century.
Shortly after the halfway point, ANTICHRIST goes from a (mainly) psychological assault to a brutally physical one; while He latently torments She with psychobabble during the first half, She comes at He with all gloves off in the second (I'm betting even some jaded horror fans will get a jolt or two here). Just before these gruesome scenes that gave this film its reputation at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, the wife's strange tales and folklore of the woods (ominously refered to as "Eden") begin to come true. One brilliant sequence features DaFoe discovering a still-living mutilated fox in the bushes; the film keeps its deadly serious tone despite the absurdity of what ensues.
ANTICHRIST is an assault on the senses (much help from the pulse-raising soundtrack and vivid cinematography) and a twisted view of the potential for evil all mankind has inside them. Critic Roger Ebert (google his fascinating review) believes this is an allegory of a reverse-creation story, and by the climax it's hard to argue with him. Either way, von Trier has painted a picture of a world where nothing positive exists and everything you thought you know has been turned inside out.
The final shot of the film looks like a living painting; ANTICHRIST is a unique art/horror hybrid that I won't be forgetting anytime soon. Willem DaFoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg have given their all to this project (Gainsbourg even won the Best Actress award at Cannes) and do things few actors would even dream of doing. This is dark expressionism taken almost to its limit.
(Be warned that the film is NOT RATED and features a couple of sequences that will easily upset mainstream film goers).