Utpal Borpujari

May 28, 2009

Cannes fest left shocked by von Trier’s Antichrist

By Utpal Borpujari in Cannes

The 62nd Cannes Film Festival was woken up from its recession-hit slumber right in the middle of its course by Danish master Lars von Trier’s shocker of a film “Antichrist” that raises disturbing questions about man-woman relationship, mankind-nature ties and religion.

From the title itself to the maverick director’s claim after the screening that he is the “best” film director in the world, everything about this high-profile film vying for the top Palme d’Or award shook the festival up on Tuesday.

The pre-festival media screening Monday night virtually left seasoned critics from all over the world speechless, and the film, dedicated to Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky, elicited audible gasps from hardboiled journalists thanks to its graphic scenes of genital mutilation and violence.

Trier has described this film, written as a self-described therapy to overcome a major bout of depression he had suffered two years ago, as his “most important” one, and those who saw the film was left in no doubt about at least one thing: that the bad boy of Danish cinema has pushed the boundaries quite far this time.

The film opens with a painting-like black & white prologue, but quickly moves to its four major sections – Grief, Pain, Despair and Three Beggars – that left the viewers shaken and disturbed through its shocking treatment of the subject.

From misogyny to Biblical references, and from horror to the notion of how nature has been “cruel” to women – in protest of which the female protagonist resorts to a graphically-shown genital mutilation, the film has so much of to disturb the viewer that many could actually require the services of a psychotherapist after watching it.

Cannes organizers are known to include films that shock and awe the world, and Trier’s film really succeeds in doing so.

Quite naturally, Trier faced some hostile questions during his media interaction, which he replied to in his famous dry-humour laced aggressive style.

“I don’t have to justify why I made this film. It’s in the Cannes Film Festival and I have to explain why I made it! I make films for myself and not for audiences, and I don’t owe any explanation to anyone why I do so,” he told an American journalist who asked him to justify his making of such a film.

Trier, who had won the Palme d’Or in 2000 for his classic “Dancer in the Dark” that is seen as a strong criticism of America, is accustomed to facing an aggressive media from the region.

He has explained in the notes on the making of the film, that focuses on an unnamed couple (played by Hollywood star William Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) grieving over the death of their young son that it “does not contain a specific moral code and only has what some might call `the bare necessities’ in the way of a plot.”

Though described as a horror film, it is more shocking than terrifying, and like the critics, viewers too will be either mesmerized by its audacious pushing of cinematic boundaries or repelled by its graphic content. And yes, one can be quite sure that this film would never see the light of the day in India, going by the norms of the Central Board of Film Certification.

But an unfazed Trier said here, “I am the best film director in the world, and all the others are overrated”, though he later downplayed it a little bit by saying that “all filmmakers think so about themselves but say it out, but I do”.

“I am not trying to say anything through this film. I have earlier made films that were more methodical and with logic, but this one is more like a dream,” he said.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 19-05-2009)


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