I could be one of the few people you’ll run into who has seen every Andrei Tarkovsky film. The great Russian filmmaker only made 7 major features between 1961 and 1986. Tarkovsky’s films were poetry with disjointed narratives, metaphysical themes, famously long single takes, extraordinary cinematography, and a sorcerous use of nature as a prop. There are scenes in Tarkovsky’s work where the wind blows on cue, or it snows inside a church. It was said of Tarkovsky that his films treated nature as a set and showed life as a dream. If so, then Antichrist, which the director in the credits dedicates to AndreiTarkovsky, is a mad, horrible nightmare.
A troubled couple escape to their mountain cabin to mentally recover from the accidental death of their infant son. Instead they both decline into an anti-reality, where they are guided to violence by animosity, guilt, and psychopathology. The result is, to me, one of the most disturbing and despairing stories I have ever seen, all the while photographically amazing. There are several extremely gross, bodily mutilation scenes I won’t spoil for people who can watch them (I turned away. This is a family blog. Let’s call it a Deloris-ectomy). I was even more disturbed by the dark themes. The director, Lars Van Trier, creates a Biblical metaphor in which Adam and Eve enter the Garden of Eden and uncover a reverse world in which human nature is evil and Satan is God. Tarkovsky, as done in Antichrist, explored the dark corners of religion, sexuality, fear, and existence. Tarkovsky’s unhappy stories generally rose to a modicum of hope. I suspect it is Antichrist’s intention to dissuade not only your hope, but your will to live. If so, it is a miserable, beautiful success.