Having previously been tortured by Lars Von Trier’s “Dogville” and “Dancer In The Dark”, I elected to see “Antichrist” only because of the evil woman theme. Let me make this clear – Lars Von Trier is a hack. He is an Ed Wood with pretensions to Ingmar Bergman’s throne, nothing more.
In “Antichrist” however, Von Trier’s dream-inspired and depression-driven script and cinematographer Anthony Mantle’s gorgeous and hallucinatory imagery make for one of the most remarkable horror movies of the last ten years, a slab of nightmarish atmosphere not easily forgotten.
The focus of this article however, is not on the artistic merits of the movie but rather on the way it was received. I must point out that this piece is being written for those who have already seen the film. If you have not yet seen it, please stop reading now as major spoilers are included. And if you are planning to see it, beware of the scene in which the female lead gives herself an impromptu clitorodectomy – there’s also a scene where the male lead’s penis gets hit with a huge piece of wood, but alas we’re all too inured to that by now.
(Those who haven’t seen the movie are probably asking themselves what’s up with the creepy fox and the title “Chaos Reigns.” The fox is one of the animal characters, and at one point he stops eating his own guts, looks up at the male lead and in a deep, distorted voice utters the words “Chaos Reigns!”. It’s that kind of movie.)
Most of the attention the film received focused on its transgressive aspects, aspects supposedly embodied in the scenes of genital violence. This however, is the mainstream media being disingenuous – while Antichrist is an extremely transgressive film, what makes it so are not the scenes of genital violence, but rather the representation of women as evil at a time in history when women are the only sacred cows left in Western society. I think it is clear that Antichrist is a statement about female evil, not merely about one evil female. This is shown not only in the female lead’s belief that the female sex is evil, but more importantly at the end of the movie, when the husband is passed by dozens of women apparently making their way to Eden, presumably to learn whatever dark lesson his wife learnt on her previous stay.
Imagine if you will a hypothetical version of this film in which all violent acts are retained but in which it is the male sex which is portrayed as evil. Would the outrage have been there? I doubt it. Most writers for the mainstream media already believe men are violent trash, so why would there be any great outcry that Von Trier was agreeing with them? What happened with Antichrist is that a mere man stepped outside the rules and made a movie portraying women as evil. Not a woman, as in Basic Instinct or Misery, but women as a group, and it is this forbidden act of rebellion which begat the outraged reaction to the film.
Do I agree that women are evil? No, but the way the message was received is a good illustration of the cultural rules as they stand – when it comes to women, we must hear no evil, see no evil, and above all, speak no evil.