Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Antichrist: A Theory and Analysis

One of the hardest things about trying to give a theory on a film like Antichirst in particular, is how many interpertations of it can be made, and how after the reaction to the film, Lars von Trier doesn't appear to be giving out answers anytime soon. Another reason being is that it is a film of pyschological meltdown and confusion, giving any number of different possibilites for what is happening in reality. Combined with the films bizarre and surreal imagery and overall difficult tone, it is a hard film to pin to one certain message. I would also like to note that all this is written after a single viewing, and some serious note-taking. This post may change over time with additional viewings (if I dare.)

Being that the film is about a psycho-analysis of a woman by her husband, it must first be noted that some things may or may not be happening in reality. He and She are both deeply flawed people, and are emotionally unstable after the death of their son Nic. She expresses her sadness and anger through increasingly violent tendancies, and overall erratic behavior. But, nearly also as strange, is how easily He deals with it. He copes by trying to help She cope, almost never showing any emotional sign of the death of his son at all, except for a few tears at the beggining, which I'll get to later. The film also plays with the idea of Satan, Evil, and Human Nature, which all may have a metaphysical higher-power associated with them, and thus explaining some of the more outlandish, and impossible scenes the film depicts.

From the start, the film does have some overtly religious metaphorical connections. The cabin in the woods being called "Eden" and so forth. A scene towards the beggining, when He is helping She make a list of places She is afraid of, She mentions "the woods." He investigates further asking: "Any woods in particular?" Which is when we learn that She is scared of the woods around Eden, which He labels in parenthesis as (garden). Another play on the biblical tale of The Garden of Eden. Further religious themes come later in the film, such as when they are walking toward the cabin, and She claims that the ground is burning, and reveals burns on the bottom of her feet, as if Hell rested over that single patch of Earth. More details are added about this when She claims that "Nature is Satan's church", which allow us to make the assumption, of Eden being Hell. An interesting paradox and statement for the film to make. Even more religion inspired themes come in the form of She's earlier thesis paper, which is about the misogynistic treatment of women in the 1600's, for they were thought for witches, and the films title itself; Antichrist.

Though many paradoxes and connections can be made, and are obviously there, I am willing to write them all off. When She first speaks of Satan, He reacts with a mix of disgust and surprise. Allowing us to assume that She wasn't at all religious before the death of their son, and emotional break-downs. The two emotions, Disgust and Surprise allow us to say that 1) She wasn't religious and 2) He wasn't and still isn't. From here there are three possible ways for this to be taken.

1.He and She aren't religious, and therefore none of the impossible occurences can be attributed to a higher power.

2.He and She aren't religious, and are therefore being punished for their lack of faith by inserting the Antichrist into one of the characters.

3. He and She aren't religious, and are trying to be enlightened by a higher-power, but are unfourtanetly being swayed because they are standing over Hell.

However, I am going to say that the most likely answer is the first. None of the impossible occurences can be attributed to a higher-power. Cinemas depiction of religion usually comes in the form of religious characters, only religious characters exclaim to have any connection to God (unless the film is directly for religious purpose, at which point they will attempt to sway non-religious chatacters to their side). Since our characters are not religious, and all forms of religion on pushed on them by their own psychologic incapabilites, we can assume that they are not allowed to be effected by the Hand of God, or the Hand of Satan.

The film is notorious for its distictive look and unreal perceptions, many of which it has become famous for. The so called "Chaos Fox" and tree made with roots of human limbs and so forth. But what I think is interesting first and foremost are the animals. The first animal we encounter is a deer. The scene has He all by himself, after She has run-off, terrifed of the woods, when He finds a deer. First glance lets us know that this deer isn't like other deers. Usually when a deer meets with a human they dart into the nearest possible bush, or forested area (I live on the North-West coast of Oregon, the things are everywhere), but this deer just stands and stares at He. Not moving. Not Blinking. But aside from this the deer is pretty normal. Until it turns and we find that it has a stillborn fawn hanging out of its uterus. A possible, and in fact quite clear reference to the death of their child. In another scene where He is alone, a dead fox re-animates and begins to eat it's own entrails, and claims that "Chaos reigns". The third animal comes once more when He is alone, hiding from She in what appears to be a rabbit-hole, where a dead bird re-animates and begins cawing. This gives away where He is hiding and He kills it multiple times, only to have it re-animate and begin making noise again.

These all share a few things. Easily that they are all animals doing impossible things, which based on my theory above aren't really there. The deer isn't really there, the fox doesn't talk, the bird doesn't come back to life, they are all complete metaphoric symbols that have absoloutly nothing to do with the nature of the forest. However, another thing to notice is that all these animal occurences happen only with the character of He, and only when He is alone, without She in frame, for whatever the reason may be. The only animal scene that happens with She on screen is when a baby bird falls from it's nest dead, only to be swept up and eaten by a Raven, something that could very easily happen in real life. This is also something that I will touch on later.

Now the question. What do all these animals mean? The three beggars as they are so called. In the scene when He ventures into the attic to find She's scrawled thesis paper and crazy writing, She has carved into the desk a picture of the three beggars. The three-beggars have names carved into them as well, Grief, Pain, and Despair, which also share their names with the names of the chapters the film is broken up into. A pretty clear connection between what each one represent, and how, in the conclusion, where all three beggars must arrive before She will kill He, this means that all three emotions, Grief, Pain, and Despair, must arrive in the both of the characters, in their complete  form, in their full, natural forms, untouched by their original oddities, before He or She dies.

Another connection I would like to make is when She has run out of the house and begins masturbating on the tree. The tree starts out normal, like a tree looks, it is only when He enters the scene that the tree seems to ascend from it's basic form, and grow these strange human limbs, which appear to be the limbs of the dead, possibly buried underneath. So now we have He as the only one who had the delusions of animals, and He as the one who seemingly caused the appearance of the dead bodies, thus insinuating that there is something definatly wrong with He.

Which isn't to say there isn't something definatly wrong with She. The film reveals to us, very breifly, and without much else said about it, that She had been putting Nic's shoes on his wrong feet. And She has been doing this for a significant amount of time. It also reveals to us that she might have done this purposfully, when Nic starts crying, and She does nothing. Similairly, Nic fell out of a window, just as the dead baby bird fell out of the nest, only to be consumed by a Raven later. Early on in the film, She explicitly states that He is not paying enough attention to She, and after the death of Nic, She gets literally all the attention from He, who then thinks he can cure her. Is it possible that she wanted Nic dead? To get the attention of He? That putting the shoes on the wrong feet was just the start of a very severe pyschological damage? I think that when the Raven eats its own child, it is a clear connection with She having wanted Nic dead.

Both characters are incredibly psychologically damaged, have little-to-no connection or sense of reality, and quite simply are insane. The final straw for She comes in the finale where She has conivinced herself that all women are evil (a very clear sign in biblical texts, which throughout the film she becomes increasingly attached to) and begins to genitally mutilate herself and He. An incredibly clear sign that she has lost it. Now is when they are both completed filled with the three 'beggar' emotions, and the three animals show up. Except something happens. Whereas She has had the power for the entire film, she has been the most violent, and from the beggining has been the sexual instigator, He takes control. He kills She by strangling her to death, and then burning her body of a fire. But the scene is quite odd. She, who is usually in control, puts up no struggle at all to stop He from killing. Possibly fufilling what she wanted all along 1) getting all the attention from He and 2) much later, thinking all women are evil, and therefore letting He kill her. The final insanity straw for He breaks after he has escaped the cabin, and is walking away. The ground next to him is completely filled, and piled up with dead bodies, something that couldn't really happen, and must be happening in his head. A clear sign of even more problems, and once he reaches the roll of the hill, an incredible amount of women start walking up. Just women, walking up the hill on their own accord, faces blurred, with no features.

Which brings me to my next point, the blurred faces of the thousands of women are seen elsewhere in the film. During the funeral scene for the young boy, all the followers of the  hearse besides He and She have faces that are completely blurred out as well, with no features. This scene also has He crying what appear to be some really fake tears, and overly sensitive touching of the hearse. It all seemed very staged. Perhaps He also never wanted a child in the first place. She was always the sexual instigating. Is it possible that He never wanted a child in the first place, and as time grew neither did She?

I think the clear message of the film is that Satan is evil, as Nature is evil, as People are evil. That we are all following the same basic pattern of life and death, and though humanity might seem like a terrible thing, we are simple a mirror image of nature. The Deer suffers Grief. The Fox suffers Pain. The Crow suffers Despair. Just as He and She did. The dead bird fell from the tree, only to be consumed by its parents, just as Nic fell from the window. Falling acorns sound eerily simlair to bullets. Tree roots look eerily similair to arms. And thousands upon thousands of things die in nature everyday, just as thousands and thousands of people die everyday. But also nature overcomes everyday, just as humanity overcomes everyday. We are Nature, Nature is us. And if the film is trying to pin one thing inparticular as the 'Antichrist' it is nature. Not He. Not She. Characters who are equally flawed, but nature, who drove their insanity even further into the depths than it already was. If the film is anything more than a simple shocker its this. Make of it what you will. Am I right? Am I wrong? That's up for you to decide. You are free.

1 comment:

  1. I loved the analysis you made. I think He's worst flaw is arrogance - he thinks he can cure her and be in total control of the situation. This message can reveal how our consciousness and rationality suffocates our basic needs, emotions and feelings until they fight back and crush us one day, wearing the mask of insanity (all represented by She).