With it’s underdeveloped characters and poorly-conveyed theme Antichrist is a confusing and unpleasant experience.
After losing their son a psychiatrist takes his distraught wife to a cabin in the woods to treat her grief. As her condition worsens she becomes sexually violent to her husband and herself.
Despite the convincing performances by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, the characters are very shallow.
When we meet the couple the wife is very distraught while the husband is mostly calm as he tries to comfort her.
This is what they’re like for most of the film which makes then very difficult to empathize with.
We don’t see what life was like for them before their son died, we don’t see them happy. They don’t feel like people.
Many agree that Antichrist is about the satanic behaviour of nature, both in humanity and the natural world.
The graphic sequences in the film is apparently supposed to symbolize the evil in nature and humanity.
This theme doesn’t really emerge until half an hour into the film.
At that point the main focus is on the psychiatrist helping the wife grieve. You’d think the film was about grief. When the couple move into the woods and start talking about Satan and nature it feels like a different film.
On top of that as the film progresses the wife’s grief gets less and less attention, to the point where its never mentioned again.
I’ll admit that some of the graphic violence does work symbolically.
For example, one scene shows a baby bird getting eaten by it’s mother which is a pretty good presentation of nature’s brutality.
However, these sequences occur at random points and don’t really affect the plot or characters.
Expanding on this point entails spoilers, so for those who want to avoid I’ll write my conclusion now and you can stop reading from there.
Antichrist is certainly atmospheric and disturbing but the shallow characters and confusing thematic expression make the film very unengaging.
I give Antichrist a weak 3 out of 10.
Right, spoiler talk.
The best and most infamous example of the pointless violence is where the wife mutilates her genitals with a pair of scissors.
I think this is supposed to show the wife’s repulsion of humanity and women, which is a pretty extreme metaphor.
Then again, after she mutilates herself she fights her husband and is eventually strangled to death. The mutilation didn’t really change anything. She was still insane and she still wanted to attack her husband.
It could’ve occurred at any point in the third act, in the end it didn’t seem to have a major effect.