Join 3,435 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Misogyny or Masterpiece?
June 12, 2009 9:22 PM   Subscribe

Warning: Extremely disturbing material. Antichrist is Lars von Trier's (previously) latest film. It features graphic sex, masturbation, torture, and self-mutilation. The reaction to the self-proclaimed "best director in the world"'s new film has been mixed. Charlottle Gainsbourg won Best Actress at Cannes 2009, while the ecumenical jury gave the film a special "anti-award". The United States will get a cut version of the film, but it will be released in its original form in Britain.

Lars talks about the making of Antichrist.
posted by atmosphere (117 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love Lars Von Trier and why am I getting a cut version?
posted by moxiedoll at 9:31 PM on June 12, 2009


It's gotten horrible reviews but that is a kick-ass trailer.
posted by unSane at 9:33 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Misogyny or Masterpiece?

I haven't seen it, but 2 things come to mind...
1) can't it be both?
2) can a film depict horrible things happening to women and/or have characters endorsing a misogynistic viewpoint without the film itself being misogynistic?

I think yes to both.
posted by juv3nal at 9:34 PM on June 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


“Well, why did you make it then?” the journalist shouted back at him.

“I think its a very strange question that I have to defend myself. I don’t feel that. You are all my guests, it’s not the other way around, that’s how I feel.”

“I work for myself,” Von Trier added, “I haven’t done it for you or for an audience. I don’t think I owe anybody an explanation.”


Fucking right on. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a filmmaker.
posted by inoculatedcities at 9:34 PM on June 12, 2009 [18 favorites]


It's worth noting that, as the linked article actually makes clear, IFC says the version released in U.S. theaters will not be cut. The meme about a cut version coming to the U.S. had its roots, I believe, in an offhand swipe the head of Zentropa couldn't resist making — he categorized the U.S. as a "prude market." But the reality is that uncut versions of challenging films, including those with "hardcore" sexual content (I'm thinking of movies like Romance, Baise Moi, and 9 Songs, not to mention Shortbus), haven't had much trouble getting released in the U.S. in recent years.

And I cannot wait to see this movie.
posted by Joey Bagels at 9:43 PM on June 12, 2009


One review I saw said something along the lines of it being the "spectacle of a director going mad."
I'm looking forward to seeing it.
posted by Flashman at 9:45 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


juv3nal, I guess a more precisely thought-out title might have read, "pointless misogyny, or misogynistic masterpiece?", but I like your thinking.
posted by atmosphere at 9:46 PM on June 12, 2009


Also, apologies, it appears I was not thorough enough. Antichrist will be released in full in America, it seems.
posted by atmosphere at 9:53 PM on June 12, 2009


skimmed all the links, watched the trailer -- not a single reference to Obama.

What's going on here?
posted by philip-random at 9:53 PM on June 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Thanks for fixing that, philip.
posted by ryanrs at 9:56 PM on June 12, 2009


Sign me the fuck up.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:01 PM on June 12, 2009


A Lars von Trier film about a woman suffering? You don't say.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 10:06 PM on June 12, 2009 [51 favorites]


Well, it's got to be better than The Kingdom.
posted by xmutex at 10:10 PM on June 12, 2009


After seeing Mr. Bean's Holiday I cannot take Willem Dafoe seriously.
This trailer is just Carson Clay in Playback Time all over again.
posted by chococat at 10:13 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really love Charlottle Gainsbourg as an actress; Dafoe's record is a lot more mixed. I don't think he's been as careful in choosing his roles as he might have been. I'll watch the film, because I am a sucker for art house movies that mix in the raunch, but I'm not really expecting to love it.
posted by Forktine at 10:20 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


this chump is a fucking fraud
posted by dydecker at 10:23 PM on June 12, 2009


by which i mean Lar Von Trier is a really really awful movie director. Dogville is was simply one of the most contrived movies ever, and then to see him championed on Metafilter as opposed to talented directors like Kelly Reichardt, well...it's just sad. it's all hype hype hype here. Warning: Extremely disturbing material don't make me laugh
posted by dydecker at 10:28 PM on June 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


“I haven’t done it for you or for an audience. I don’t think I owe anybody an explanation.”

If you didn't do it for an audience, you shouldn't have one. I don't think I owe anybody the price of a movie ticket.
posted by wendell at 10:33 PM on June 12, 2009 [21 favorites]


I'll watch the film, because I am a sucker for art house movies that mix in the raunch, but I'm not really expecting to love it.

Wait a minute! He DID do it for an audience! An audience of suckers!
posted by wendell at 10:35 PM on June 12, 2009


Lar Von Trier is a really really awful movie director. Dogville is was simply one of the most contrived movies ever

I hear you. I could talk about him all day (Breaking The Waves, for example, is maybe the best movie I've ever seen) and I do think that he's an extraordinary director of actors (see Dancer in the Dark, where Bjork - who was never an actress - will break you heart) but I really love Dogville. During the film, I was very much impressed by the performances, but the ending of the movie insulted and infuriated me and I think that's fantastic. As an American, I had thus far felt patriotic feelings - and agreement with anti-American sentiments - and "you don't know what you're talking about" toward Anti-American sentiments... But feeling furious and insulted as an American (and a woman, and a "liberal") was something I'd never experienced. And I think there's skill and value in that.
posted by moxiedoll at 10:44 PM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


by which i mean Lar Von Trier is a really really awful movie director.

Yup, right down there with Uwe Boll.

Dogville is was simply one of the most contrived movies ever, and then to see him championed on Metafilter as opposed to talented directors like Kelly Reichardt

I still haven't seen DOGVILLE so can't comment ... but THE ELEMENT OF CRIME, XENTROPA, BREAKING THE WAVES, DANCER IN THE DARK, THE KINGDOM and THE IDIOTS provoked many (sometimes contradictory) responses in me, none of them an urge to dismiss his work as "awful". Upsetting, dark, sinister, savage - yes. But never awful.

to see him championed on Metafilter as opposed to talented directors like Kelly Reichardt, well...it's just sad

Does it have to be either/or?
posted by philip-random at 10:58 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


The movie, Mihaileanu added, says that the world has to burn women in order to save humanity.

Talking movies, eh? Sounds like the devil's work to me.
posted by pokermonk at 11:00 PM on June 12, 2009


You are all my guests, it’s not the other way around, that’s how I feel.

Rorschach...

I work for myself,” Von Trier added, “I haven’t done it for you or for an audience. I don’t think I owe anybody an explanation.

Roark...

Even though I pretty much agree that a primary bar for an artist to clear is an independent and personal sense of satisfaction with the work they produce, and I don't believe Von Trier or anybody else owes me an explanation of their work, there's a critical and practical sense in which it might not be a bad idea to explain the artistic necessity of scenes like this:
"In one controversial scene, She hits His testicles with a wooden plank so hard that it is implied they are crushed. While He is unconsicious, she masturbates him until he ejaculates blood. She then drills a hole through his shin to bolt him onto a grindstone. In a later scene, She cuts off her own clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors."
I understand that sex and violence may well sometimes be syntactic pieces that make up real semantics of a film, but because they're also intense experiences even second hand, they can end up transcending the semantic effort and become loose cannons of experience when they really should be subservient to the themes of the film. This becomes more likely as you travel up along a continuum of shock, as you travel down along a continuum of artistic ability of the filmmaker, and of course as you travel along continua of sensitivity and sophistication among viewers. Once you get to a level of the kind of imagery described above, I'm not sure you can make enough of a complete masterpiece that would avoid the artistic problem of having the syntax overwhelm the intended semantics... and the reach of your work is going to be limited to a less sensitive and sophisticated audience.

And for what? Which themes really need that particular treatment? The wiki link above says the film is "a profoundly serious, very personal ... piece of art about small things like sorrow, death, sex and the meaninglessness of everything." There are a lot of ways to explore those aspects of the human experiences in film, one has to wonder exactly why such a high level of violent sexuality and mutilation is particularly necessary. Not that, again, Von Trier owes anyone a particular explanation, but then again, nobody owes him a minute of their eyeballs either. I'm interested in certain experiences, less interested in others, and averse to many unless they serve a larger and proportional reward. The kind of sex and violence described above? I'm going to need a pretty damn good reason for finding watching that worthwhile, and I'm not sure a misogynistic Nightmare is really it. The fact that Von Trier is dismissive about his need to provide such a justification might be simply indicative of an artistic ethic that's deeply personally driven, but it might also be indicative of a film that isn't pressing those things into service of a worthwhile vision.
posted by weston at 11:04 PM on June 12, 2009 [44 favorites]


Included is a graphic close-up shot of a penis entering a vagina. The film has also invited controversy for its graphic sexual violence. In one controversial scene, She hits His testicles with a wooden plank so hard that it is implied they are crushed. While He is unconsicious, she masturbates him until he ejaculates blood. She then drills a hole through his shin to bolt him onto a grindstone. In a later scene, She cuts off her own clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors.

Take that, Pixar!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:04 PM on June 12, 2009 [24 favorites]


Jesus, that might have been the only trailer I've ever seen that I've actually found kind of unsettling.

Dancer in the Dark attacks the viewer's sense of pathos more relentlessly than most directors would dare. Von Trier never pulls back. I'm hoping that he'll be able to do this same with the viewer's sense of fear. If so, it'll be the best pure horror movie ever.

Unfortunately, I just spoiled it a little for myself by skimming the Wikipedia article and reading the final paragraph in the Production section, which is about some of the props that were used. And... wow. I can't imagine the kind of movie that would need those props. It's like von Trier is trying to take Cronenberg's place now that Cronenberg is moving in the direction of realism, but is going overboard. Hardcore.

Dogville is was simply one of the most contrived movies ever

Of course it's contrived. Verfremdungseffekt. Do you hate Brecht too?
posted by painquale at 11:10 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dafoe accepted the role, later explaining his view on it: "I think the dark stuff, the unspoken stuff is more potent for an actor. It’s the stuff we don’t talk about, so if you have the opportunity to apply yourself to that stuff in a playful, creative way, yes I’m attracted to it."

Except that he doesn't let us see Willem Willy, it's a stunt cock. So much for getting into the role.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:13 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


The kind of sex and violence described above? I'm going to need a pretty damn good reason for finding watching that worthwhile, and I'm not sure a misogynistic Nightmare is really it. The fact that Von Trier is dismissive about his need to provide such a justification might be simply indicative of an artistic ethic that's deeply personally driven, but it might also be indicative of a film that isn't pressing those things into service of a worthwhile vision.

Nicely put. I can't say I've really tracked Von Trier's career that much, particularly over the past ten years, but my gut tells me he's as much a precocious thirteen year old as anything else -- ie: completely concerned with pushing and exploring the limits, both of his passion and imagination ... and what he can get away with.

ANTI-CHRIST sounds disturbing as hell. I suspect the discourse surrounding it shall turn out to be every bit as relevant as the movie itself. Perhaps more so. It may not be art but it's definitely something.
posted by philip-random at 11:18 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Weston, really, it's totally ok for people to make films that you don't want to see. They don't need to justify this behavior.
posted by Casuistry at 11:24 PM on June 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


No i don't hate Brecht I like him. But remember he directed plays not movies & therefore the his theories have less application to film, which is based on the idea of photographing The Real and not neccessarily about making strange people on a stage in front of you.

This is to say the reference imputes all kinds of theoretical intrigue into Von Trier which unfortunately he is neither aware of nor his movies give life to in an new or interesting way. Especially unoriginal is his misery and mean view of human beings and so yes that does have to be an either/or with Kelly Reichardt it's your choice ;p

No, he's not right down there with Uwe Boll but then again there is no need to compare him with talentless scum
posted by dydecker at 11:25 PM on June 12, 2009


You know who else Brecht hated too?
posted by fleacircus at 11:28 PM on June 12, 2009


Yeah and his real name is Lars Trier not Lars VON Trier which goes to show you what a total & utter cock he is.
posted by dydecker at 11:31 PM on June 12, 2009 [12 favorites]


Our greatest fears are created sometimes (can only be created) when we use psychoactive drugs. Does this mean we've become so dull to fear that only our own minds can scare us? Or does it mean its much scarier to lose one's mind than to die?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:34 PM on June 12, 2009


Looks pretty lame.
posted by Corduroy at 11:36 PM on June 12, 2009


Can't wait to see the Amazon.com take on this:

Customers who bought this item also bought posted by Ritchie at 11:54 PM on June 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


Why does the U.S. get a 'cut' version and Britain gets the full?

Yes yes, USA full of suck, etc. etc.

I want my uncut movies, damnit! - Can't wait to see this.

(Which, will be in the full, uncut Britain glory. I hope it's good.)
posted by Malice at 11:55 PM on June 12, 2009


A Lars von Trier film about a woman suffering? You don't say.

Kind of a thing with him. I did like Kingdom, though. Lars Von Trier reminds me of Neil LaButte in a lot of ways - both have a real eye for the Ugly in people, and at their best, can make me feel like I'm being hung by my ankles from a tenth story window; at their worst, I just want to vomit. This is starting to sound like the latter to me. I'm not entirely bothered by his obtuseness. David Lynch - probably my favorite director - is not exactly the chattiest guy when it comes to his motivations. But I don't recall Lynch getting downright defensive when asked a simple question.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:11 AM on June 13, 2009


therefore the his theories have less application to film, which is based on the idea of photographing The Real and not neccessarily about making strange people on a stage in front of you.

? Not sure what you mean about The Real. Dogville was pretty much a filmed play. And I'm not one to buy claims about medium essentialism. But you somewhat right. There are features of staged plays which can be exploited in achieving the alienation effect -- features that Brecht himself exploited -- that film cannot easily exploit. For instance, Brecht wanted to make it very obvious to the audience that what they were watching was artifice and that they stood in a bodily relation to the actors, not the characters. So he would keep the lights on in the main audience section of the theater and not confine actors to the stage. A film director can't do that. Firstly, he typically has little control over features of the screening. And secondly, there is no obvious bodily relation between the actors and the audience to point out. There is spatial remove.

In some ways, the stereotypical features of film are completely inimical to the Brechtian project. Brecht never wanted you to forget that you were a political being interacting with an artwork that demanded dialogue and participation. He rebelled against the fact that that one could go to the theater and lose one's sense of self in passive enjoyment and emotional release. But that's exactly what movies are good at. Film is better than pretty much any much any other medium at letting you passively hunker down in a comfy chair and lose yourself in the narrative.

Some Brechtian film directors give up on Brecht's techniques that were unique to the stage any rely on his others, such as wooden and awkward acting. Hal Hartley is a good example of this sort of director (which is why his movies feel so much like plays). Some movies lean on self-reflective techniques, but those are rapidly becoming clicheed and just another tool in the average director's repertoire. Although von Trier calls himself a Brechtian, but he doesn't take on any of those methods at all (except in Dogville and Mandelay, I guess). But Brecht's theories and techniques are still absolutely applicable to von Trier's ouevre. He manages to achieve the alienation effect in a way that plays to the strengths of the medium instead of ignoring them. I think what he does is totally unique among directors. Instead of trying to avoid passive emotional response in the audience, he plays to the emotions going so far overboard as to short circuit them. He makes it so that being passive is painful. The audience is forced to see the movie as fictive in order to protect themselves, and forced to make a political stand. Moxiedoll's comment described a great example of this effect in action.

These movies do not rely on mere pushing-the-boundaries shock effect; they are a slow burn, sustained pressure on the viewer's empathy, not shocking. They get under people's skin and anger them in a way that Saw V could not. Von Trier has a miserable and mean view of human beings, it's true, but it is not the case that that's the takeaway message of his movies. The movies ask you to engage in critical dialectic with them. If you come away feeling, say, more patriotic than ever before, then you might not share Lars's personal convictions, but he should at least feel success in that you came to yours in the right way. When I hear people calling von Trier's movies contrived, or too depressing, it sounds to me like someone returning from a staging of Mother Courage and complaining that the glare from the lights was too bright.

I don't expect to convince all y'all haters, but I thought I should state the pro case.

We can agree that is definitely a misogynist asshole though.
posted by painquale at 12:32 AM on June 13, 2009 [12 favorites]


Weston, really, it's totally ok for people to make films that you don't want to see. They don't need to justify this behavior.

It's not so much that they need to justify making a film that I don't want to see, as that it doesn't bode well for the merits of the film if the director not only can't make some justification for unusually disturbing violence within it, but apparently makes a studied point of ignoring reasons why this might matter.

He is free to refuse any such discussion, as he is to make any film he chooses, but to do so is pretty much inviting at least some potential viewers to conclude that perhaps (a) the film's purpose as some sort of satisfaction to the director has already been served, and therefore there's no need to see it and/or (b) there may be no difference between what his film is doing and cat burning, feeding prisoners to lions, Saw, and other forms of disturbing violence as entertainment.

This invitation, of course, also needs no justification, and perhaps it further serves the director's personal sense of satisfaction, in which case, I suppose we're all good.

(That is, on preview, unless it's true that "these movies do not rely on mere pushing-the-boundaries shock effect; they are a slow burn, sustained pressure on the viewer's empathy, not shocking...")
posted by weston at 1:08 AM on June 13, 2009


What I dislike about Von Trier is not that he is able to push my buttons -- quite the opposite i find his films pretty boring - but that he underestimates his characters. If personality was a balloon his stuffed animals would be blown up only a quarter full. Mostly my complaint is that he diappoints his his audience: i don't come away from his films feeling like he has needled my personal convictions artfully, ie that achieved the low aims of simply a cinematic troll, but rather his crime is much worse in that his view of characters is so blinkered & poor that it offends me & I feel sorry for him. This is not Brechtian; it's simply bad art.
posted by dydecker at 1:20 AM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


dydecker, tell us what you really think about Von Trier.
posted by item at 1:36 AM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


From interviews and other articles that came out during Cannes I gather that basically Von Trier made Antichrist to help try and pull himself out of depression. Now I'm all for art as therapy as a concept but I don't necessarily want to see the results.

After the misfiring dud that was Dear Wendy I'm in no hurry to see another Von Trier film anytime soon... especially want sounds like a (pseudo)intellectual version of torture pr0n.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:20 AM on June 13, 2009


You know who else Brecht hated too?

East German protesters?
posted by Ljubljana at 2:21 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's all remember that the “I haven’t done it for you or for an audience. I don’t think I owe anybody an explanation.” quote was in response to a huffy journalist that shouted “Well, why did you make it then?”

It's not as if Mister The Trier shows up uninvited on-screen and tells you to go fuck yourself, audience. And cuts your clit off with a rusty whatever.
posted by krilli at 2:30 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whatever the merits of the film, and stipulating that LVT is a MASTER at stirring up shit and thereby a gift to a movie publicist (I bet the distributors were lining up to kiss him after that press conference), I do really agree that he doesn't owe anyone an explanation. Watch the movie and decide what you think about it. It really should stand or fall on its own. What the director says about it in in a press conference is neither here nor there. Hopefully s/he said everything important they wanted to in the movie. If they didn't, then it really IS a failure on some level.
posted by unSane at 3:09 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


For those who may ignore it, it has to be pointed out that Charlotte Gainsbourg is the result of the same sizzling love affair between Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg which also produced this famous record.
So, she's well acquainted with scandal...since conception, even.
posted by Skeptic at 3:14 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: It may not be art but it's definitely something.
posted by progosk at 4:05 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


That trailer was pretty tame. Am I missing something?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:16 AM on June 13, 2009


Does it make me bourgeois that I prefer to avoid films that feature testicle-crushing and clitoris-removing?
posted by miss tea at 4:53 AM on June 13, 2009 [16 favorites]


miss tea,
No, you aren't watching it for us or for the director. I don't think you owe anybody an explanation.
posted by krilli at 5:02 AM on June 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Sounds like one of those movies that I want to have seen, but without having to actually watch it. Glad the US is getting the uncut version, though.
posted by box at 5:07 AM on June 13, 2009


Does it make me bourgeois that I prefer to avoid films that feature testicle-crushing and clitoris-removing?

You just don't understand art. Genital mutilation is the most beautiful allegory for modern day ills and their solution.

...
posted by scrutiny at 5:07 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let us not forget that Charlotte Gainsbourg also starred in The Cement Garden which featured an incestual relationship (Charlotte was sampled in the Madonna track "What it feels like for a girl" which leads me on to my next point)

Blazecock Pileon - my reasoning as to why there is no Willem Willy is because, according to Madonna at any rate, if you were to get Willem Defoe, Liam Neeson and Warren Beatty naked in the same room there would be no space left on account of their genitalia being "on the large side". Sadly, googling for this factoid found me this website which in turn leads to some discussion that I am glad I have avoided in my online history.

Seriously. Hot wraps? Wrist weights?
posted by longbaugh at 5:20 AM on June 13, 2009


Did Lukas Moodysson not make this film years ago?
posted by fire&wings at 5:26 AM on June 13, 2009


it's all hype hype hype here

Yeah. Metafilter is nothing but mainstream. Fucking Stan Brakhage lovers. Why no appreciation for Paul Sharits?
posted by slimepuppy at 5:26 AM on June 13, 2009


It sounds like a remake of Joanna Angel's Re-penetrator. (Trier has financed porn films so presumably he has some knowledge of the market)
posted by mkb at 5:49 AM on June 13, 2009


Evil Dead with tits
posted by mattoxic at 5:50 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


painquayle, that was a very good defense of von Trier. I still think Dogville is dogshit, though. To this day the only movie I've walked out of, and I mock people who do that.

And I liked Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark for about the first hour or so until I was as bored as a five-year-old. Von Trier may be an auteur, but he's an auteur with a lame sense of pacing.
posted by zardoz at 6:02 AM on June 13, 2009


dydecker, me think thou doth protest too much. Have you seen all of Von Trier's films? Are you going to see this one? You keep going on and on about how boring and fraudulent and pathetic his films are. Yet you keep on watching them? Typically when I find a filmmaker whose work I don't care for, I simply stop watching his/her films. Personally, I'm with others who find Von Trier's work intriguing but not necessarily brilliant. I do think he has made a couple of legendary films, and a few stinkers. Would we all be so lucky. And to claim that he is fraudulent or not authentic - well, of course, he's a filmmaker. How many modern filmmakers truly are? And even the ones who aren't - isn't being a good craftsman enough? De Palma has made a career of being the guy who regurgitates the style of other filmmakers (often for worse, but sometimes the results are interesting). Von Trier is a provocateur and though you claim he does not get to you, clearly that's not true - I don't much care for "How I Met Your Mother" but you're not going to find me in a Metafilter thread posting comment after comment about how much I don't care for the show.
posted by billysumday at 6:11 AM on June 13, 2009


I was at the film's Transylvanian premier. I often like Von Trier.

Its not disturbing, just graphic.

One character turns out to have some radical mysogynist opinions, discussed for about three minutes. Feels like little more than an excuse for the violence to come.

The "anti-christ" element is a superficial reversal of the story of Christ's birth. The movie is filled with all kinds of banal parallel events.

Stylistically, it comes across as an advertisement for the Red One camera.

It is "Dedicated to Andrei Tarkovsky".

Andrei must be turning over in his grave, and Lars should be doing about the same in his bed.
posted by breadfruit at 6:19 AM on June 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


No i don't hate Brecht I like him. But remember he directed plays not movies & therefore the his theories have less application to film, which is based on the idea of photographing The Real and not neccessarily about making strange people on a stage in front of you.

dydecker, this is a ridiculous thing to say. Flat out stupid. Brecht's theories have more application to film, because of the very reason you state - its implied "realness" contrasted with its inherent fabrication. Brechtian theory sought to "strip the event [in his case, theater] of its self-evident, familiar, obvious quality and creating a sense of astonishment and curiosity about them." Godard was the one who ultimately ran with this in film, and has been credited with being more "Brechtian" that Brecht. As others have said: "The question remains as to whether Brecht hasn't ultimately exerted a greater influence on cinema, via Godard, than on theatre."

Apologies if that last paragraph was overly harsh - it's just a really, really silly thing to say that because Brecht directed plays, his theories have less application to film. Anyone with a cursory education in film or theater history can tell why that is not true.
posted by billysumday at 6:21 AM on June 13, 2009


I should have said, "If anything, Brecht's theories have more application to film..." The point is that one can argue either case - that Brecht's theories regarding epic theater were perfectly suited for the theater, or that they developed in the theater and then were applied even more directly and effectively in film.
posted by billysumday at 6:28 AM on June 13, 2009


The meme about a cut version coming to the U.S. had its roots, I believe, in an offhand swipe the head of Zentropa couldn't resist making he categorized the U.S. as a "prude market."

Meme? You mean rumor?
posted by Eideteker at 7:05 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Watch the movie and decide what you think about it. It really should stand or fall on its own.

That assumes that watching extreme images has no effect on you. In which case, why watch art films? I like movies that stick with me. Don't need images of rusty scissors cutting off clits sticking, esp. if the film doesn't take me anywhere.

It's kind of like saying "Getting flogged? Don't knock it until you've tried it." Er... no, thank you.
posted by msalt at 7:36 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah yes, genital mutilation, the perfect visual imagery for a night of...umm, okay, drawing a blank on the end of this sentence.
posted by jamstigator at 7:43 AM on June 13, 2009



I've learned a lot here on metafilter. But probably the most important thing is to give a quick check of the comments before clicking links willy nilly.
posted by notreally at 7:48 AM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


dydecker, this is a ridiculous thing to say. Flat out stupid.

No it's not. Films are about emotional response to character which is the very opposite of what Brecht was trying to achieve with the theatre. But anyway what i meant to say wasn't clear: "he's Brechtian" as a defense of Von Trier is kind of a post-facto justification of the chief flaw in his films, which is that they have big emotional moments in them which are unearned. He doesn't have enough talent to construct the characters to achieve it. The comparison to Brecht is interesting maybe because Brecht is also someone not so interested in characters, but that was a means to other ends - social, political, theoretical - whereas with Von Trier the problem is that the thing he is trying to achieve - to elicit an emotional response in the audience - can only be gotten through artfully contructing believable characters, which is something that Von Trier is incapable of doing. And therefore he has to resort to cheating by filming spectacle. On this most basic level Von Trier is a failed filmmaker.
posted by dydecker at 7:50 AM on June 13, 2009


1. You don't get any credit for being able to unsettle audiences by depicting genital mutilation. It's kind of intrinsic to the material, you know?

2. Once I came home to find Mrs. Beese in the living room watching a movie I didn't recognize. After a few minutes of still not recognizing it, I asked sincerely, "Is this supposed to be a parody of something?" It was Breaking The Waves. True story.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:50 AM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Its not disturbing, just graphic.

I guess that would depend on whether one finds graphic mutilation disturbing, wouldn't it?

Personally, I find Von Trier's work hit or miss, but I really liked "The Five Obstructions". Gives some insights into Von Trier's personality, in my opinion.
posted by dubold at 7:57 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, not the best film for a first date.
posted by Flashman at 8:00 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dancer in the Dark was a terrible first date movie.
posted by cazoo at 8:02 AM on June 13, 2009


Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe wrote a really funny description of watching this at Cannes with some very good points.

The difference between this new movie and something like "The Kingdom," "Breaking the Waves," "Dancer in the Dark," oeryr even "Dogville" is that for all its formal excellence, it's a work of depression that's missing a hint of even diabolical joy.

Misogyny? The film lists a "misogyny consultant" in the credits. Not that the director's provoking or anything. Less incisive but also funny was Variety's verdict:

Lars von Trier cuts a big fat art-film fart with "Antichrist."
posted by msalt at 8:11 AM on June 13, 2009


About how many Salos does this rate?
posted by adipocere at 8:17 AM on June 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


I adore Charlotte Gainsbourg.. saw the trailer for this and it looks painfully overserious and unwatchable. So, therefore, I'm considering watching it, though I don't expect I'll invite friends along for the experience. Something that provokes to this extent is at least.. interesting, and art is either interesting or it isn't. Dancer in the Dark made me angry and wanting to slap Bjork's character for her utter cluelessness and naivete, and the more I reflected on that, the more I suspected.. it was deliberate, on the director's part. So he hates his audience. All right, that's something.

Far as Cronenberg moving toward realism.. from what I've seen of him recently, the clinical detachment and gruesome violence are still.. part of his vocabulary in the way they've been since the mid-80's. I saw History of Violence in a crowded theater and doubtless a lot of people thought they were in store for a standard thriller, and ended up laughing uncomfortably in parts, recoiling in horror in others, and left pretty stunned and quiet. I thought of Cronenberg watching the trailer here, because of the way certain scenes are shot, and figured that's going to create a lot of painful, uncomfortable reactions from the viewers. I bet you could film a lot of this stuff in a more conventional horror style and it wouldn't be half as shocking, since we're all used to that now.

And LOL at the dedication. One more extra-audacious "f you"? But then, look at those tracking shots in the trailer. That dacha off in the woods surrounded by fog is straight out of Tarkovsky. I'm really kind of curious now. I love Tarkovsky to pieces but let's not pretend his films had a real progressive view of women. The lady in that isolated house in The Sacrifice goes quite.. hysterical, after all. Let's not pretend a lot of revered great directors didn't have completely misogynistic portrayals of women, that often were just accepted as unremarkable by critics and audiences alike. So if this whole thing draws on a lot of directors I like, and really hits you over the head with the point that many of their films have deep undercurrents of misogyny.. I'd have to hand it to Von Trier for getting at that, honestly.
posted by citron at 8:19 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


My dad took someone to see Johnny Got His Gun on a first date.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:19 AM on June 13, 2009


This is off topic but worth mentioning - I did a google search because I didn't see the trailer immediately in any of the above links. I typed "antichrist," intending to follow it with "trailer," but google suggested some popular searches for me. At the top of the list? "Antichrist Obama." Really? Really? My morbid side wanted to see what that search would show, but my heart won out and I didn't look. What kind of crazies live in this country? Oh, wait.
posted by killy willy at 8:35 AM on June 13, 2009


I mean, let me say it again - I love Tarkovsky, but his films aren't all pastoral scenes, ten minute tracking shots, meditations on nature, space, and time.. there is some shocking violence on occasion, and some real weird undercurrents of women being idealized, distanced, and feared.

I'm also totally cracked up by the still on the film's website. That's some awful art-house cranked up to 11 and he just doesn't mind. LOL. Now I have an expection of this film being awful, horrible and rather brilliant and it'll probably let me down..
posted by citron at 8:36 AM on June 13, 2009


killy willy - true that. there are some ugly, scary lies out there on the internets and I fear we haven't seen the last of these outbreaks of extremist violence. anyway.
posted by citron at 8:37 AM on June 13, 2009


Spoilers within, but Ebert has a rather thought-provoking piece on the film here.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:53 AM on June 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Here are some other trailers.
posted by Houstonian at 9:29 AM on June 13, 2009


Maybe "the women's studies major who broke his heart" and the "misogyny consultant" are one and the same. But Lars will never reveal her name . . .
posted by emhutchinson at 9:31 AM on June 13, 2009


Okay, but all those Brechtian alienation stuff, which I'm completely behind, about always foregrounding the fact that the work of art is a work of art rather than reality and that one is always a political being interacting with an artwork that demands dialogue and participation, it's all great, really, but it is SO COMPLETELY FUCKING AT ODDS WITH Von Trier's 1950-modernist-radical-individual-auteur schtick. Like, once you've said:
“I think its a very strange question that I have to defend myself. I don’t feel that. You are all my guests, it’s not the other way around, that’s how I feel.”

“I work for myself,” Von Trier added, “I haven’t done it for you or for an audience. I don’t think I owe anybody an explanation.”
once you've said that, well, I hate to break it to you, buddy, but you can't claim Brecht as a comparable. You're stuck, at best, hanging with Hemingway. IMO Trier's films are all about him claiming that you, the audience, are historically determined and always-already political, while he himself gets to be a radically autonomous heroic self-determining individual. And uh I don't know about you, but I don't think it's great fun to play passive, dominated eye-cunt for some Dogme creep's big erect individualist-modernist-liberal (and oh so special!) cinecock. If that's what you're into, sure, okay, go on ahead, but don't pretend that you're being radical or politically aware or avant-garde or cool or smart doing it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:16 AM on June 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


Films are about emotional response to character

No they're not. They're about 90 minutes.
posted by krilli at 10:21 AM on June 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Spoilers within, but Ebert has a rather thought-provoking piece on the film here.

Wow, that was a fantastic discussion. Thanks!
posted by voltairemodern at 10:30 AM on June 13, 2009


Trier's films are all about him claiming that you, the audience, are historically determined and always-already political, while he himself gets to be a radically autonomous heroic self-determining individual.

That might be valid of his more recent stuff, but it's certainly not true of Riget/Kingdom which is about being entertaining more than anything else.

The Element of Crime and Zentropa/Europa are excellent too.
posted by juv3nal at 11:04 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Which themes really need that particular treatment?

Is this really quantifiable? Maybe we should have a list. I'll start:

Acceptable for the themes of sorrow, death, sex and the meaninglessness of everything:

Going to an amusement park
Sharing a hot fudge sundae with a loved one
Watching bunnies frolic in the grass

Not acceptable:

Cutting off your clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors
posted by naju at 11:35 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


That came off much more joke-y than I intended. I'm just averse to anyone discounting an entire movie, no matter how serious and complex its themes are, because of a single (admittedly horrific) scene.
posted by naju at 11:43 AM on June 13, 2009


You're right. I doubt that was the reaction at the time to a particular scene in Bergman's Cries and Whispers, but then again it's all I remember about it now..
posted by citron at 12:21 PM on June 13, 2009


Dancer in the Dark was a terrible first date movie.

My dad took someone to see Johnny Got His Gun on a first date.


I did Dancer in the Dark. A friend of mine took a guy to see Happiness on a first date and realized what a mistake it was at the first semen splat. But I think the winner is my friend who took a girl to see The Lifestyle while high on pot cookies.

I dare anyone here to ask someone to The Antichrist for a first date.
posted by painquale at 12:30 PM on June 13, 2009


I took a girl to see "Silence of the Lambs" when it first came out. We ended up going out for about six years. But the breakup wasn't pretty.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:48 PM on June 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Not sure if it was clear but that was our first date.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:52 PM on June 13, 2009


I saw "Henry and June" as a first [and last] date.
posted by jessamyn at 1:41 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Monster's Ball. Also bad on a first date.
posted by flotson at 2:04 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


to see him championed on Metafilter as opposed to talented directors like Kelly Reichardt, well...it's just sad

Does it have to be either/or?


Can't it be neither?
posted by Navelgazer at 2:22 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


"a profoundly serious, very personal ... piece of art about small things like sorrow, death, sex and the meaninglessness of everything."

What!? ANOTHER profoundly serious and deeply personal piece of art about sorrow, death, sex and the meaninglessness of everything? Can't Europeans do anything ORIGINAL any more?
posted by happyroach at 2:24 PM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Caligula, another terrible first date movie choice.
posted by Locative at 2:54 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I am seeing this for Charlotte. Her album with Air and Jarvis Cocker producing is amazing.
posted by Locative at 2:54 PM on June 13, 2009


Saw "Leaving Las Vegas" as a first-and-last date movie. After I walked her home, I got mugged on the way home, too. What a magical evening that was.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:24 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


No amusingly inappropriate first/last date stories, but there's this one:

I took a friend of mine to see Dancer in the Dark a few hours before he was set to start work as the musical director on a production of The Sound of Music.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:35 PM on June 13, 2009


1st date: History of Violence. Around the time Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello are having rough sex on a flight of stairs, I realised that there were two possible outcomes to this date: it's either over or it's forever.

We're still together. Just one more awesome thing in my life that I owe to Cronenberg.

posted by slimepuppy at 8:05 PM on June 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


a really good first date movie?
Sammy and Rosie Get Laid
posted by liza at 8:38 PM on June 13, 2009


I took someone on a date to see Tokyo Decadence. Things didn't really work out, but that wasn't the fault of the movie.
posted by Forktine at 9:52 PM on June 13, 2009


Somebody took me on a first date to see Jurassic Park once. In retrospect, I should've seen it as a sign of some kind.
posted by box at 9:57 PM on June 13, 2009


Just this month, German ministers have declared that they want to vote for installing a complete ban on violent computer games ("Killerspiele") - this will supposedly include all games in which killing or excessive cruelty is an "essential part of the plot" - we're talking about games like Halo, Counter Strike and Far Cry. (See this very short article in English.)

At the same time, Wikipedia tells me that 1.3$ of German taxpayers' money was used to film testicle crushing, the penetration of elaborate vagina props, dead fetal deers and "porno doubles" ejaculating blood.

I guess if upper class intellectuals enjoy obscure avantgarde violence porn, it's not only tolerated, no: it's actually so great we all have to pitch in and provide funding for Mr."I-don't-need-an-audience"-Trier. If, on the other hand, the regular guy or gal feels like shooting up some zombie avatars from time to time, it's the fucking end of civilization and OMGBANBANBAN!
Only in Germany.
posted by The Toad at 3:27 AM on June 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Best first date movie for me: Blue Velvet. The severed ear in the grass was my first clue that maybe we should have picked a romantic comedy instead.

Later, while driving her home, she had me pull over so she could throw up. In spite of that, we slept together that night and stayed together for many years, only breaking up when she moved across the country to finish her studies. She was a really great girlfriend.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 4:44 AM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


The first Lars Von Trier film I saw was Idioterne. Plot: "The group of people gather at the house in Copenhagen suburb to break all the limitations and to bring out the "inner idiot" in themselves." It was certainly an interesting introduction. Check out the final scene. I definitely am a fan of his work, despite his pompous attitude. Antichrist looks like a very interesting addition to his filmography. Can't wait for the US release.

I just took a glance at his IMDB page. I find it terribly amusing that he wrote and produced an "unknown" episode of Stephen King's "Kingdom Hospital".
posted by fightoplankton at 9:18 AM on June 14, 2009


Saw "Clockwork Orange" as a first date movie in college, which led to my first real relationship. Cool girl.
posted by msalt at 10:51 AM on June 14, 2009


You may not enjoy his work. You may hate him as a person. But to claim that he's a hack or a "fraud"? Some directors make only one great film - but it is so indisputably great, that you cannot call him a fraud. Orson Wells is a perfect example. CK is a masterpiece. Most of his other films are dreck - as if a different human being directed them. What do you say about Orson Wells? Fraud? Genius?

LVT wrote and directed one indisputable masterpiece - The Element of Crime. Now, you may say that you don't like it for whatever reason, and further that merit in art is subjective, but you cannot deny that certain elements of art are in fact objective. For example, in painting/visual arts, you either have the technical chops, or you don't - say, if someone has perfect control of perspective and realistic drawing, that can actually be measured objectively. Now, an artist may have nothing else, but if he has indisputable technical chops, to call him a fraud of all things is wrong. He may be a very poor artist, or almost a non-artist, but not fraud. Fraud to me, is someone who has nothing, not even technical skills (Uwe Boll and thousands of other directors). Even if you hate The Element of Crime, you cannot deny that it is directed extremely well, technically. Personally, I also happen to think it is great all around, but that, being subjective can always be in dispute. What cannot be in dispute, is that at least in that film, LVT showed great technical ability. And so, he may be a miserable artist (I don't think so), but he is not a fraud. Now, you can say he's like Orson Wells, with only one real masterpiece in him, but that's a different argument, and not interesting here. Whatever else, he is not a fraud.
posted by VikingSword at 5:09 PM on June 14, 2009


VikingSword, I agree completely with the spirit of your defense - but The Element of Crime as his best? The only thing indisputable about The Element of Crime is that it looks like it was shot on film soaked in urine.
posted by moxiedoll at 11:24 PM on June 14, 2009


VikingSword: watch Touch of Evil.
posted by box at 9:22 AM on June 15, 2009


Touch of Evil - don't like it at all. Not in the same universe as CK. It is in fact a poor, poor B movie. First, take the absolutely awful acting by Orson Wells in that film, versus his excellent performance in CK. His acting was like his directing: fantastic in CK and mostly ridiculous in other movies (whether directed by him or others) - he turned into a major ham. The scenery chewing he did in Touch of Evil is so outlandish it's like those cartoonishly exaggerated silent movie poses ("FEAR", "FURY", "GRIEF"). His first entrance into the room - he looms at the foot of the bed with his "bad, bad man" face projecting a schoolboy's idea of "MENACE" in 9 foot letters - I burst out laughing. And did you see the lighting in that scene? Cinematography was one of the highlights of CK, but in Touch of Evil, it embarrassing. It's supposed to be a film noir look, but it's like a parody of film noir - simplistic and so unsophisticated, it's like a high-school student shot it for laughs. And the story - oh, the story. So lame. The whole drug thing is conceived and acted with reefer madness quality - it's not even that it's dated, because it was so ludicrously fake-feeling you can't imagine that anyone at anytime took this seriously. The dodgy casting, the faux-deep ruminations on "evil in men", the supposedly giant shadow cast by the baddie - it was failure of artistic judgment so complete that all you could do is shake your head non-stop while watching this dreck.

moxiedoll - there are many indisputably great technical things about TEOC, from framing to staging to camera blocking that one could easily write a book here, but if you don't have an eye for these things, then it's unlikely to be persuasive - but sit down with a pro and watch the film, and without saying a word about the artistic merits of the film one way or another, you'll hear one thing "this is technically, top notch work".
posted by VikingSword at 12:49 PM on June 15, 2009


If I invited a pro over to watch my DVD of The Element of Crime, he would say that it was technically top notch work. And then he'd say, "jeez, that VikingSword is awfully condescending!" And then we'd laugh about how it looks like it's made of urine. And then we'd watch the special features.
posted by moxiedoll at 1:22 PM on June 15, 2009


moxiedoll, if I came across as condescending, my sincere apologies - I certainly didn't mean to sound like that, and it's not how I feel. Perhaps, I should have expressed myself more clearly - looking over that post, maybe the words "if you don't have an eye" are what caused that reaction - I hasten to add that I meant "you" in the sense of "one", so it would have been better had I written "if one doesn't have an eye". No offense at all meant, and no condescension at all. Again, my sincere apologies for any unintended slight.
posted by VikingSword at 1:38 PM on June 15, 2009


VikingSword: His acting was like his directing: fantastic in CK and mostly ridiculous in other movies (whether directed by him or others) - he turned into a major ham.

Oh buddy you'd better not be talking about The Third Man.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:55 AM on June 16, 2009


The Third Man was one of his better performances (and worlds better than in Touch of Evil). Wonderful film. He was so unbelievably awful though, in so many others. Way too full of himself. He needed a director who'd slap him in the face when he was overacting, but nobody felt in a position to do so on account of his status as the "misunderstood genius" (a status that I think did him a lot of psychological damage). His fundamental problem was that he simply did not grow as an artist. It's as if he started at the peak, and then plunged straight down. Tragic story in many ways.
posted by VikingSword at 9:03 AM on June 16, 2009


VikingSword: Way too full of himself. He needed a director who'd slap him in the face when he was overacting, but nobody felt in a position to do so on account of his status as the "misunderstood genius" (a status that I think did him a lot of psychological damage). His fundamental problem was that he simply did not grow as an artist. It's as if he started at the peak, and then plunged straight down. Tragic story in many ways.

I think you're confusing what people think of Welles now with what people thought of Welles at the time. Citizen Kane wasn't commercially successful, was mostly loathed by the public (many people walked out of the theater), was nominated for several awards but only won one (Best Original Screenplay), etc. The Magnificent Ambersons did even worse (Welles lost final cut because the studio lost its faith in him). Honestly, Welles' film career was entirely predicated upon his War of the Worlds broadcast, and I don't think it would have lasted much past Ambersons at all had it not been for that. If Welles had a swelled head, it wasn't because of his film work; and I certainly don't believe other directors felt any sense of deference to him because of any status he had. If anything, his status was that of failed director who occasionally got work.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:35 AM on June 16, 2009


shakespeherian, CK was respected as a monumental achievement among the people who counted here, because they were the ones who worked with him and were willing to hire him: other directors. If you read his life story, you see the same pattern over and over again: CK was highly respected by other distinguished directors and that's what his reputation was built upon, while producers and "suits" thought he was a dud commercially. Although, in fact, he was a minor "name" as an actor as far as the public was concerned (and zero as a director).

His directing was affected by his reputation with the "suits" - he was a commercial dud. Yet even here, the respect he garnered from some actors helped him - they were willing to act in his films, and that was often the deciding factor in even getting the chance to direct again (it was never the script, given how rotten they were - when he even had a coherent one, instead of changing it mid-stream). He was not a power within the industry, by any means, but he had his allies and that allowed him to have a career even in the face of almost complete artistic failure after CK (Rita was critical to getting The Lady from Shanghai made, and of course he was married to her).
posted by VikingSword at 11:39 AM on June 16, 2009


Apparently, you'll eventually be able to get your Misogynistic Masterpiece in video game form.
posted by juv3nal at 12:22 PM on June 18, 2009


« Older Graphic Novels...  |  Some comics about mental illne... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments