Antichrist (2009 101min.) [Film4 12.55am thursday &+1]
Controversial horror drama directed by Lars von Trier, starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. A woman descends into madness following a family tragedy, despite the efforts of her therapist husband to help her come to terms with the loss.
Lars Von Trier can be a frustrating auteur, his deeply personal films range from the irritating (The Idiots) to the joyous (Dancer In The Dark) and even reach moments of magnificence (Melancholia).
This arthouse horror movie covers most of these bases and is certainly not for the squeamish.
Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe play a couple known only as He and She. Their small son dies in an accident while they're having (explicitly filmed) sex. He tries to treat her grief with therapy and a trip to their isiolated cabin in the woods; to say it all goes horribly wrong would be the understatement of the century.
Nature has rarely seemed so ominous as it does here; the sounds of wind through trees, acorns dropping on to a roof, even a fake-looking talking fox are enough to give you the heebie-jeebies long before a crescendo of gore that will have viewers of both sexes crossing their legs and squirming.
Like the best horror movies, much of it defies rational analysis, but there's enough brooding symbolism to give you bad dreams for weeks.
Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle's photography is striking : the opening sequence (where The Tragedy occurs) is a beautifully shot ultra-slow motion combination of intensity and breathtaking impending catostrophe. In the later scenes set in the depths of the forest the glorious natural background slowly takes on an increasingly threatening edge as the natural tones turn from a lush green to a washed-out brown and black landscape, against which the end game of the couples mental collapse is played out.
There's not much in the way of coherent narrative or much action to speak of, the film is a series of impressions and sketches charting the mental disintegration of Charlotte Gainsbourg's character and there are moments when you want to sit von Trier down and give him a stern talking to.
Overall though, it's an interesting if disturbing watch and one of the most important films in the development of this talented, inventive writer-director.
Approached with caution it's a rewarding watch - but it's certainly not to everybody's taste.