I just sat and watched an art house horror movie called Antichrist by the Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier. You may or may not have heard of it, but it gained some notoriety at the Cannes Film Festival this year where it was adored and reviled in equal measure due to its very graphic nature.
It’s the story of a couple (Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) whose young son falls from a window and dies, unnoticed by them while they are having sex. They retreat to a cabin in the woods to recover but fear, guilt and resentment lead them to begin systematically torturing each other, first mentally and then physically. All the while the woods around them begin to come alive.
Lars von Trier is not one of my favourite filmmakers by a long shot. I find his movies are usually pretentious, self-important and plodding and Antichrist isn’t much different. It’s not your average Cineplex popcorn seller, with scenes of close-up penetrative sex and genital mutilation among other things, but it is deeply unsettling, haunting and one of the most beautifully shot movies I’ve seen in a long time. Not one for the shelf, but a good movie nonetheless.
So, after watching a movie like this I like to go and read some reviews; see what the rest of the world thought. I prefer to read the bulk of movie reviews after the event. One stop I always find enjoyable is my old friend The Daily Mail. For those of you who don’t know, The Daily Mail is a British newspaper. It is a bastion of Victorian values and insane Conservatism and either gives me a good chuckle or sends me into a foaming rage, depending on the topic. I simply had to know what The Daily Mail film reviewer thought about Antichrist.
This is what I found. It’s long, and much like the films of Lars von Trier, it’s pretentious, self-important and plodding. But it is well worth the read!
What DOES it take for a film to get banned these days?
By Christopher Hart
As censors approve a movie that plumbs grotesque new depths of sexual explicitness and violence, one critic (who prides himself on being broad-minded) despairs…
A film which plumbs new depths of sexual explicitness, excruciating violence and degradation has just been passed as fit for general consumption by the British Board of Film Classification. They have given the film an 18 certificate. As we all know, this is meaningless nowadays in the age of the DVD because sooner or later, thanks to the gross irresponsibility of some parents, any film that is given general release will be seen by children.
You do not need to see Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (which is released later this week) to know how revolting it is. I haven’t seen it myself, nor shall I – and I speak as a broad-minded arts critic, strongly libertarian in tendency. But merely reading about Antichrist is stomach-turning, and enough to form a judgment. As Ernest Hemingway said of obscenity in a justifiably disgusting image, you don’t need to eat a whole bowl of scabs to know they’re scabs.
Here is the ‘plot’ of Antichrist, with apologies in advance. But since this is coming to a cinema near you soon – and then a DVD, a website and a late-night TV channel – you might want know about it. A couple are having sex. Graphically close-up. While they are doing so, their toddler falls to his death from a balcony. The husband and wife go to stay in a log cabin to recover from their grief. There, horrors the likes of which I have never witnessed unfold in graphic detail. Eventually, the husband strangles her and escapes through the woods, where he is surrounded by hundreds of children with blurred faces. The end.
Now the anonymous moral guardians of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), in their infinite wisdom, have passed this foul film for general consumption. Another bizarre but typical judgment from this panel of experts whose names we don’t even know (and so we don’t even know if they are parents). We do know that its president, Sir Quentin Thomas, gets £28,000 for 25 days’ work a year. Nice job if you can get it. In a jaded and degraded culture, Antichrist is presumably intended to shock. In fact, it doesn’t shock, it merely nauseates.
It doesn’t shock or surprise me in the slightest that Europe now produces such pieces of sick, pretentious trash, fully confirming our jihadist enemies’ view of us as a society in the last stages of corruption and decay. It doesn’t surprise me that Antichrist was heavily subsidised by the Danish Film Institute to the tune of 1.5 million euros.
I tried to find out more from the Institute, but to my small surprise they disdained to reply. But you can be sure that they in turn are funded by the EU and so by my taxes – and yours. How do you feel about that? If not shocked, then weary, furious, disgusted? Well you can complain all you like, but no one is listening. Our arts mandarins, along with the rest of our lofty liberal elite, don’t work like that. Their job is to take our money and spend it on such fashionable torture porn – sorry, art – not ask us our opinion.
Since sex and violence are both intrinsic parts of human experience, art and literature will necessarily contain both. There are few more horrific moments on the English stage than in King Lear, when the Duke of Cornwall gouges out the aged Gloucester’s eyes. I must have seen the scene 20 times and it never fails to appal. But although superficially similar to the atrocities of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, it differs in every significant respect. Shakespeare is dramatising the tragic universe we inhabit, human evil at its worst, and the hidden moral process by which Cornwall will eventually be punished for his cruelty.
The world of Antichrist, by contrast, is blatantly amoral, without any sense of justice or retribution whatever. Its mingling of sex and violence, the cheapest and nastiest trick in the book, is usually one which the BBFC pounces on in a straight horror film. But here they are blinded by their own cultural snobbery, swallowing the lie that Antichrist is Art. Von Trier, the film’s writer and director, naturally scorns as a philistine rabble those who don’t appreciate his rare genius. ‘I don’t think about the audience when I make a film. I don’t care. I make films for myself.’
A pity he doesn’t fund those films for himself too, then. But he cannot be blamed for his atrocities, he explains. ‘It’s the hand of God, I’m afraid. And I am the best film director in the world. I’m not sure God is the best god in the world.’ Willem Dafoe, meanwhile, who plays the father, is evidently proud of his work in Antichrist too. He believes that all that child death and sexual violence is ‘poetry’, that the film is ‘true and fresh and living’, and dismisses any objections as ‘very conservative.’ In quintessential luvviepseak, he explains: ‘Your responsibility is to the integrity of what you do to yourself.’
Now bearing the stamp of BBFC approval, Antichrist is to be released uncut into our cultural bloodstream. In artistic terms, it is the equivalent of food poisoning. How odd that while government-appointed health czars are so obsessed with anything that might harm the nation’s physical wellbeing – hanging flower baskets, conkers, too much sunshine, not enough sunshine – any concern with the nation’s moral or spiritual well-being has completely vanished. Its approval by the BBFC raises the question: what on earth does it take for a film to be banned nowadays? If the visceral sadism of Von Trier’s film passes muster, surely anything will?
Censorship today seems to have been reduced to the feeble principle that if it doesn’t harm children, then it should be allowed. As soon as it’s released on DVD, Antichrist will harm children anyway, deeply and irrevocably. But when did this principle of protecting only children arise anyway? What about harming adults? If I were to see Antichrist, I don’t believe for a moment that it would incite me into copycat violent behaviour or make me a danger to others. But it would poison my mind and imagination, with explicit, ferocious scenes of sexual violence that would stay with me for ever.
Isn’t that good enough reason to ban it, or at least demand extensive cuts? But have we – that is to say, the hesitant, fumbling, comfortably cushioned, value-free Leftish elite who now govern us – got the guts? I doubt it.
Just remember, he hasn’t actually seen the film but…