Aside: Antichrist

Seeing Antichrist and Melancholia when they came out in theaters was distilled confusion, but rewatching them the other way around (reverse order) was very rewarding.

by Ruth Scott Blackson

by Ruth Scott Blackson

I suppose I did it because I was getting nostalgic for favorite films of old or just excited about Nymphomaniac. I found the end of the world in Melancholia doesn’t seem so bad the second time, and Antichrist was much more powerful when it wasn’t as surprising and horrible.

The violence in Antichrist begins as sexual, with a few bites, scratches and hits during sex scenes between Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. But for most of the final 45 dialogue-less minutes, the characters graphically torture each other.

I was basically nauseated the first time and thought LVT might have gone too far into horror. But re-watching, it struck me how the attacks could simply be a way of showing in imagery the emotional violence that can exist between a man and a woman.

Alberto Giacometti by Cartier Bresson

Alberto Giacometti by Cartier Bresson

The film’s final long fight begins outside the bedroom, when CG (She) attacks WD (He) and knocks him down. She pulls off his pants and smashes his penis and testicles with a block of wood. Then, she masturbates his bleeding penis until it ejaculates blood. He goes unconscious.

After, she drives a long cork-screw looking device through the fatty part of his thigh, then feels the blood, widens the wound with her fingers, and touches the muscle.

Then she forces a long thick screw into the leghole and out the other side, with a large – min. 10 kilos – weight (lathe wheel) on one end, and bolts it on the other side.

This item is attached to WD’s leg until moments before the end of the film.

While she is running around, he crawls outside and pulls himself into a hole in the soil, under a tall tree. She is running around searching for him with a shovel. Eventually, she sees the hole and beats at it with her shovel. Then, she goes above and digs from there, until a hole breaks in the soil, upon which she slams her shovel relentlessly.

Chap. 4, the three beggars, begins. CG’s face becomes pained and sympathetic; she digs into the soil with her hands until she uncovers WD’s face, buried along with the rest of his body, and strokes it. She then drags him into the house.

Inside the violence is on reprieve while they lie together having memories. She remembers that she saw her son just as he crawled to the window, just as he fell, she remained where she was, getting fucked by her husband, and actually seeming to orgasm at this moment from the sight. Or if not directly aroused by the sight, just too caught in the lust of the moment to stop for her child.

After this, she begs him to hold her as she places a pair of scissors next to her vagina. He does, and she circumcises herself by cutting off her clitoris, screaming horribly, which alerts the deer, fox, and peacock distant outside in the woods.

Then she lies there, weeping in the house, when he begins to remember the son as well, and picks up a wrench to unbolt the lathe wheel. She eventually notices and impales him in the back with the scissors. He pulls them out. They tumble. He flails at her with the wrench. They separate.

WD unscrews the bolt, drops the wheel, and with a horrifying scream of pain, pulls out the pipe.

Then, in one of the film’s most poignant moments, he looks at her, and they look at each other. They look like an old couple that hasn’t seen each other for a long time, truly seeing each other, with that, ‘we’re both still here’ expression – esp. CB’s face, which despite the violence she has wreaked is still that of a tortured, inconsolably sad, beautiful woman, clinging to hope.

But then he has a vision of the boy; and a close-up of her lone, devious eye in a watery shot, and his face hardens and he steps closer to her.

As he stands in front of her his vision becomes small snippets of the close-up watery black and white of her physiognomy that was shown repeatedly during her hospital stay — breath audible, skin rising and falling, arteries pumping. Then he pinches her trachea shut with his thumbs and holds her until she dies, with a tortured expression on his face.

It does sound like a horror movie. But neither of the characters is acting either terrified, or bloodthirsty and vicious. And in fact the victim murders the attacker at the end. But ironically a woman is the primary attacker.