Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.
The Aptly Named: Antichrist
Director Lars Von Trier seems to court controversy. Throughout his career, Von Trier has divided critics and audiences, with some hailing his work as avant-garde, ultra-feminist masterpieces while others deride him as a pompous, exploitative misogynist.
Take, for example, Von Trier’s 2009 horror film Antichrist. The film stars Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe as characters identified only as “She” and “He.” While making love in the shower one day, their toddler son manages to climb out a bedroom window falling to his death. She has a nervous breakdown in the wake of her guilt. He, being a psychiatrist, thinks he can cure her grief through therapy. The pair hold up in a cabin in the woods, and immediately, strange occurrences begin to plague them. She sees a doe with a stillborn fawn hanging halfway out of her. He wakes up covered in ticks, and sees a fox eating its own innards. Over the course of their stay, He begins to think She believes all women are inherently evil. Meanwhile, She stops taking her medication and exhibits violent behavior.
We generally don’t issue any kind of trigger warnings for Screen Gems, but we take exception here. Antichrist is one Hell of a bitter pill. While nobody in the film actually shows any sign of being LGBTQ, the movie’s underlying themes of shame, gender frustration, guilt and associated religiosity seem in line with the sensibilities of a queer director…or, in Von Trier’s case, someone who’s sexually ambiguous. Viewers can also debate how Von Trier’s upbringing by Communist nudists and learning he was actually the product of an extramarital affair shaped the story of guilty parents. Here, he channels those forces into a tale of sex, shame and extreme violence, as if to beg the question what if all sex is evil? Von Trier, aided by uninhibited performances from Dafoe and Gainsbourg, dives deeper into that question than any other filmmaker ever has. This is the scariest movie of its decade.
Antichrist is an exercise in pure psychological terror, punctuated by scenes of gory violence and spiritual musings. This is not a movie for the faint of heart, but for anyone willing to brave Von Trier’s demented vision, the film offers up one of the most unique, beautiful, twisted visions in the movies. Here is a masterpiece of abject horror, a monumental achievement by a queer director. We recommend it for that reason with one caveat: if you don’t like being scared, please watch something else.
Streams on Amazon & YouTube.