Postcards from Paraguay – a (long in pre-production) review of Lars von Trier’s „Antichrist”

This is the first in the series of movie reviews here. Surely enough this had to come – after all games have always been considered an interactive counterpart of movies, or their bastard child, depending on who’d you ask (or how drunk and disorderly he/she is).

I’d initially thought that tackling the renowned, often characterized as “best in the world”, Danish director’s flick on a first go would bury me instantly, but having finally understood the message (it took some time) behind his new movie, bringing you closer to what it stands for is as simple as a child’s cry.

Because its basic memorandum is pain; in all forms and sizes. Observers of von Triers’ work know that in most his movies (excluding the more clueless pieces like “The boss of it all”) he clearly shows that evil always finds its way, and like oil – always surfaces on the water. This time around – the evil comes from its most natural place – from within a human’s soul – ‘the seeder’s hand is the most fertile ground of all’, as an old Croatian saying goes.

The utterly ghastly struggles of “He” and “She”, the nameless protagonists of the film to cure her schizophrenia left by a sudden child’s death are the bulk of it all. As you might imagine, emotions run the stage, but they are strictly categorized into stages like Dante’s circles in Hell, bestowed on the spectator by their prophets – a deer, a fox and a crow. The director certainly ups his “a film should be like a stone in your shoe” philosophy, as “chaos reigns” gradually transforming not only the characters, but the audience’s psychological standpoint on feelings like guilt and depression.

All in a visceral parade of eerie, almost celestial camera shots that strongly resemble postcards, both in terms of setting and tone. Their sense is the counterpart to the gore, screams and tears, they convey an introverted look at all those feelings that covey evil in our life, claustrophobically closing in on the human feeling of constant seclusion. “Nature is Satan’s church”, the director claims – wherever you go, it’s always around. It’s a masterful, yet scary sight to see, you might actually remember some of the demons that plagued you in your life watching this still moments, but that I believe… was actually the purpose of the movie.

Ancient roman theater believed strongly in the motif of “Catharsis”, that by witnessing a fictional character’s suffering, an audience can be cleansed of their own. As people walked out of the theater room, unnoticing this in the very brutal, but meaningful still moments like sexually implied scenes of torment, I realized that the Danish Maestro missed his mark to enlighten the human race. By pouring his own emotions and feelings that accompanied him during his depression “one to one” on a film reel, he gave the spectator a once in a lifetime chance to face his own anger, apprehension and any feelings of being misunderstood or dismissed and left alone in his earthly endeavors… and come out bruised, shocked, some of his strong feelings of a sentient, willful being washed away, but triumphant in learning he is as much son of The Creator as The Devourer, and that he must live with not only what he creates, but also what he destroys. And yet… not everyone listened – because not everyone has the spirit to find a symphony in a scream of pain or admit his shadow is taller than himself.

To that end… if you are an individual, to who the theatrical message, emotions – Catharsis mean everything in a spectacle (other than “Transformers”, let’s not get overboard), this movie might actually have meaning to you – meaning certainly beyond words I can muster and individual like nothing before. Be warned – they may very well send you on a downward spiral of misery to a place of no return. All casual movie crowds should stay away, even in the face of great temptation. As we all know, or as once Al Pacino taught us – it is the Antichrist’s most potent tool… and his loving arms await.

(Normally I thought I’d do some kind of scoring for reviews, like stars or ‘Cliffys’ but this one escapes any form of grading – and those who insist on doing so, are plain fools).

The title of the article comes from an old tag given to Paraguay’s tundra – “Green Hell”, where thousants people were lost never to be found again – and Mark Knopfler’s 2004 “Shangri-La” album song of the same name.

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~ by Pawel Wyslowski on June 24, 2009.

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