Yes, vopr, we have to take von Trier at his word when he uses religious references in his story. The archetypal nameless man and woman return to Eden where they confront good and evil, perhaps even the devil — there are no subtleties to these signifiers, though what they signify here remains ambiguous I believe. I think of the ancient gnostic creation story, where nature is created not by an almighty and benevolent God but by imperfect and clumsy demiurge who may have been the devil himself. The wasteful fecundity, the imperfection and transitivity, the horrible inevitability of suffering and eath — surely these testify to a malign force at work in nature, said the gnostics. The woman gives voice to the idea somewhere in the story: nature is the devil’s playground, or something to that effect. At the top of the Pyramid of Fear stands first nature, then the devil, then the self. And they are all intertwined in the growing awareness of a fundamentally evil human nature.
We see the satanic creator, but who is the eponymous Antichrist in this tale? In Biblical mythology Satan is there at the beginning with the man and woman, but the Antichrist’s time comes at the end, ushering in the Apocalypse. Christ then overthrows Antichrist and restores nature — in the world and in the human soul — to its originally created goodness. But what if the story is inverted and the devil is the creator. Now the Antichrist is… the one who restores outer and inner nature to its originally created evil? I think so. The man is an agent of Antichrist, calling the woman back to Eden to confront her fears. But the woman is an agent as well, having already encountered her own inner devils the preceding summer. Both are homicidally cruel; both are suicidally self-destructive. But what is the malign force that infuses them with this imepetus to evil, that brings them back to this anti-paradisiacal Eden? In the Book of Revelation the Antichrist isn’t a disembodied spirit but a man, the embodiment of evil. I think we have to conclude either that both the man and the woman are together the Antichrist, or else it is the man alone. And I think I have to go with it being the man, who is after all the last man standing, having come back from the dead to crush his bride, around whom all the faceless women gather, perhaps in anticipation of a gynocidal holocaust ushering in the anti-millennial reign of the evil one…
in anticipation of a gynocidal holocaust ushering in the anti-millennial reign of the evil one…
but these women are resurrected (first you see their dead bodies, indeed a la Holocaust, in the woods, and then in the last ”vision” they come back in some ghostly/apparitional form). the fact that the ”three beggars”, the three animals, appear also superimposed, spectral, led me to think that we’re seeing this in the ”hauntological” dimension. which could mean either that the future gynocide is being projected ”in reverse”, or the other way round; but i didn’t get any clear-cut pessimistic or apocalyptic view from this. further i think the scene refers to tarkovsky’s ”sacrifice”, the ending scene, which i will have to see again before i can get any hint of where this might be going.
I think we have to conclude either that both the man and the woman are together the Antichrist, or else it is the man alone.
the suggestion is given all the time that there is a crucial scar (deviation, distortion, abomination) reflected on the one hand in castration (which makes it impossible, despite all the fucking, to accomplish unity) and on the other hand in the imperfection and impurity of nature (hereby i think that the deformations of the animals repeat the deformation of the feet that led to the child’s death). here and there you get surrealist shots (pulsating veins) which seem to have been anamorphotically distorted, further enhancing the link with Lacan’s Eden. i also noticed that things don’t die, e.g. dafoe’s cock is still erect after it’s been bashed, and dafoe can’t kill the raven. this made me think that there is indeed a source of uninterrupted plenitude/flow but which neither adam nor eve can access due to this inherent deformation, abomination, deviation.
I was wondering why in some shots the camera zooms in and out of the back of the character’s head, as if to say that some spirit is entering and exiting it? what do you make of that?
the shot of the autophagic fox stayed with me for days, and won’t go away. i read somewhere that freud, when describing the oral phase, said that all love is cannibalistic. since the fox was eating itself out from the inside, i got the picture of some implosive force sucking things in from the inside.
I wasn’t sure about these faceless women at the end either. Certainly they weren’t moving in zombielike fashion, nor were they about to avenge their sister’s death at the man’s hands. Where were they going? At first I did see it as a kind of sacrificial redemption having been performed on their behalf, that some primal violence reenacted had released them from their own gynocides. But certainly there would be nothing particularly redemptive about this story otherwise, and the women’s effacement doesn’t bode well. The woman regarded all these gynocide victims as having been already evil, so now perhaps they’ve returned as living evil to join the Antichrist in his millennial reign.
The willful deforming of the child’s feet was a creepy little touch: the imperfection of nature is somehow partly man’s doing and is certainly a manifestation of evil. Even traditional Christian theology asserts this: man’s sin causes the fall of nature itself into its imperfection.
“there is indeed a source of uninterrupted plenitude/flow but which neither adam nor eve can access due to this inherent deformation, abomination, deviation.”
I don’t know; my sense was that the plenitudinous flow was inseparable from its abomination. The acorns attested this inseparability: the abundance, like gunshots, falling like so much spilled sperm to the fallow ground. Also the birth/death in the baby deer and baby crow: inseparable, with the baby crow becoming food for the ants. The stems of the flowers at the hospital bedside teem with living corruption.
I don’t know; my sense was that the plenitudinous flow was inseparable from its abomination.
perhaps ”flow” is not the word to use: maybe ”drive” is better, because everything is driven, from the compulsive sex to the way the trauma constantly returns (as i said, in the animals). i had a sense that both protagonists were in the end fatalistically accepting some pre-determined route, for example, she behaved as though having to undergo the processes she discovered in her ma thesis. they sort of did it despite themselves.
about the women, i do still get a sense that this is being played out in future perfect sense, and that eden is literally haunted (these traces of evil or deformity seem to have come from the future)???
No question about the psychoanalytic orientation of this film. Dafoe the psychologist openly disavows Freud, which opens up the pandora’s box to castration and so on. I agree that the propulsive force is drive. We gain no insight into these two people’s relationship before the story unfolds: they’re held in thrall by impersonal or spiritual forces both external and internal to them, pulling their strings. The man’s erection, like the dead white tree in the woods from my screengrab, stays up of its own accord, without desire, without even life itself. The woman’s sexual drive too is automatous, driven, outside of any desire, like a nervous twitch.
driven, outside of any desire, like a nervous twitch.
yes exactly and remember how in existentialism Hell is described as the place where things constantly repeat (”groundhog day”) so this is what brought me back to earlier conversations about the drive-Deleuze-plenitude-Pleroma-… you know what I mean
Dafoe the psychologist openly disavows Freud, which opens up the pandora’s box to castration and so on.
yes I found it supremely humorous how in his cognitive therapy he unwittingly prophesizes for example her witch-powers (”whatever the mind can conjure, it can make happen”) but what was even better was the implication that psychoanalysis is ”dead” because repression (that propelled psychoanalysis to dig things up) has been lifted and now we’re directly in the Unconscious; I think this is why both castration and resurrection fail, that is to say, on the unconscious ”plane of immanence” everybody is already dead/is undead or better to say will have been dead
That’s tedious, you just haven’t had time to get plenitude, when you do, all the ‘Hell as repetition’ is not something to scoff at. You’re just jealous of Deleuze, and he-who-is-now-dead would be jealous of me who-will-be-dead but am-not-dead now, and am just fine bein’ a repeatin’ machine. You got to find which battering ram you waunt to spend time with.
Comment by Buck Fuller — 21 October 2009 @ 10:56 am
One might get a sense from our remarks that the characters were zombielike, affectless, but not at all: truly intense acting, very human, very alive in their responses to these events. Even their own uncontrollable impulses provoke appropriate emotions. Wonderful performances. The undead plane of immanence hasn’t displaced these characters’ humanity; rather, it controls them as an alien force that’s both inside and outside, truly terrifying and ultimately despairing.
One might get a sense from our remarks that the characters were zombielike, affectless, but not at all: truly intense acting, very human, very alive in their responses to these events. Even their own uncontrollable impulses provoke appropriate emotions.
That’s another important point: the personal (face – expressive in both instances, Dafoe’s especially is like the skin of a tree with its numerous cracks and wrinkles) is juxtaposed with the impersonal (the faceless women, the people at the funeral)
But the zombie-like refers to repetition, rather, the return of the Trauma. The Primal Scene established in the beginning never goes away
, there is always a stain on the laundry being ironically white-washed at the close of the Primal Scene. It also refers to the ending, where you see the animals as specters; with this coding I could only conclude that the animals are the zombies. And the women, they pass Dafoe by, as if he himself is a ghost.
Then, as he discovers the depths of her sense of personal evil and blame, he puts the word “me” – her ultimate fear is herself – only to cross it out again. I was reminded of Paul Ricoeur’s study of Genesis, in which he ponders on the pre-existence of evil in the Garden of Eden, suggesting that we find ourselves in a world in which evil precedes us as an unnameable mystery. The symbols of the fall pervade this film, but the serpent never appears. Whatever the source of evil, it has already done its work before we enter this poisoned Eden.
By the way the Three Beggars is a Serbian fairy-tale
A very rich and hard-hearted merchant, Mark or Marko, had one daughter, Anastasia. One day, he was about to set dogs on three beggars, when Anastasia pleaded with him. He let them stay in the stable loft. Anastasia went to see them. In the Russian version, they were then grandly dressed; in both, they decided to give Marko’s wealth to a new-born named Vasilii, the seventh son of a poor peasant in a nearby village. She told her father. He went and found just such a boy had been born. He offered to be his godfather and then to raise the boy, giving the poor father a sum of money as well. When the father agreed, the merchant threw the baby over a cliff.
Other merchants picked up the child and brought him to Marko, who persuaded them to leave him with them. He put the boy in a barrel, or an open boat, and threw it into the sea. It floated to a monastery, where the abbot took the child in. Many years later, Marko passed by and heard the story. He persuaded the abbot that he wanted to take him in, and that he would give a large sum to the monastery for it. The abbot and monks agreed, and Marko sent him to his wife with a letter prescribing that he should be pushed into the soap-making cauldron at once.
Vasilii met the three beggars on the way, who breathed on the letter. When he arrived, the letter called for him to marry Anastasia at once. His wife obeyed, and Marko arrived to find a letter in his own handwriting calling for it. So he sent his son-in-law to collect rent from Tsar Zmey (Russian) or the Serpent King (Serbian).
In the Serbian version, he met an old oak which asks if he can discover why it can’t fall. In both, he met a ferryman who asks if he can discover why he is bound to ferry people back and forth, and a whale being used as a bridge, which asks if he can discover how long it will be bound to let this.
At the castle, he met a maiden, who hid him and asked the Serpent King or Tsar Zmey in serpent form, about a dream she had had. He told her the oak had to be pushed over, which would reveal treasure, the ferryman had to push the boat off with another person in it, and the whale had to vomit up the twelve ships it had swallowed without leave. He went back, carefully not telling the whale and the ferryman until he had already crossed. In the Russian version, he received jewels from the whale; in the Serbian, he found gold and silver under the oak. He returned to Marko, who set out to make sure the next time, Vasilii would not be able to escape, but the ferryman pushed the boat off, and Marko is ferrying people still.
…and the Three Wonderful Beggars are basically about the self-fulfilling prophecy (like the myth of Oedipus), which explains to me where these thoughts have come from: nearing the end of the film, Dafoe has a ”vision on the cross”, he sees the star constellation ”The Three Beggars” and declares that no such constellation exists; then we see a flashback to the Primal Scene relating all this to the death of the child, where at the moment the child is falling, one of the beggars (the fawn) is standing in the window, observing.
So I have a hunch that what we’re talking about here is the question: is Hell a self-fulfilling prophecy?
“There is no such constellation” — either the constellation is a construction of the observer, in effect a self-fulfilling prophecy, or else the observer is not aware of the real constellation that exerts its real influence outside of human conscious awareness. The woman blames herself for the child’s fall, and later we discover that she has abused the child in the past. But as the autopsy makes clear, those abuses had nothing to do with the death. At the beginning of the film we see the child watching his parents make love, and we see the window opening of its own accord onto what will soon become the death scene. I think the child’s death is like the acorns’ falling: just another manifestation of the wanton profligacy and senseless destruction of nature, evil in a way that is similar to human cruelty but not necessarily caused by it. The two branches spring from the same trunk of primal evil that infuses the world.
We get the sense that both the man and woman have good intentions, but that they cannot overcome the evil drives that move them. We can see the cruelty of the man’s CBT therapeutic techniques, but at the same time we believe that he believes he’s doing the right thing. It’s an unconcsious cruelty that moves him despite his conscious rational goodness. So too with the woman: we believe that she loved the child even as she subtly tortures him day after day. Apparently she’s consciously unaware of her cruelty even though the evidence is right there in front of her all day every day, captured in all those snapshots she took of the child. In this story releasing the unconscious doesn’t purge the humans of their evils in order that the good might manifest itself all the more. Rather, giving free rein to the unconscious releases evil in all its fullness. Only in the end, when the man chokes the breath out of the woman and consigns her to the flames, has his conscious mind become fully aligned with the unconscious evil that has been moving him. Maybe then is when he becomes Antichrist.
like the acorns’ falling: just another manifestation of the wanton profligacy and senseless destruction of nature, evil in a way that is similar to human cruelty but not necessarily caused by it. The two branches spring from the same trunk of primal evil that infuses the world.
Well, this is really good, even for those of us who haven’t seen the movie, but just general good idea–this idea of ‘nature as evil’ IN ADDITION to human evil I like very much. So what do you do? Try to be more christlike as an antidote to the two kinds of evil? Or realize that maybe calling nature and maybe even human evil was arbitrary to begin with, that maybe they aren’t evil at all, just random, or at least MOSTLY, all these need a slight amount of temperance from the Lord, who otherwise is better off leaving the important business to Satan, who is a lot more interesting and everybody knows it!
Comment by Buck Fuller — 21 October 2009 @ 11:07 am
Certainly the film opens itself to accusations of misogyny, but I think what happens is that the woman comes to an earlier awareness of the evil in her own nature than does the man. If women are evil then, she infers, it’s through their own fault that they’ve brought the wrath of men onto themselves. In her summertime Edenic isolation fails to consider the evil in men, which comes to fruition only in her subsequent return to Eden. Similarly one could contend that the evil suffusing the man’s passive-aggressive therapeutic interventions merit the woman’s murderous assaults on him, but this too would be an overinterpretation. Both are cruel; each is the other’s tormentor and avenging angel. It’s an overdetermined circuitry of evil in which man and woman are bound together in the death spiral.
The man escapes because he’s physically stronger, but it seems like a supernatural strength, like that of the bird in the cave/tomb. Dead, he keeps coming back, always undead in his return — as you say, vopr.
And in the end the women come back too, back from the grave just like the man. No redemption, no vengeance, just the eternal return of the already-undead. I wouldn’t be surprised if von Trier inserted Charlotte Gainsbourg — the woman — among the swarm of faceless women climbing up the hillside at the end of the picture.
I wouldn’t be surprised if von Trier inserted Charlotte Gainsbourg — the woman — among the swarm of faceless women climbing up the hillside at the end of the picture.
I was just going to say that since there is no death proper here, the women are all Charlotte, this time in some ”higher” incarnation as the Multitude. But I do still tend to associate this with some kind of feminist politics, because the women are dressed in 1940s costumes, and the image refers this way to the war, the Holocaust. Also noticed today that their movement is pyramidal, and the therapist draws a pyramid to ”explain” fear. It is for my money suggested that even if there is no glimmer of redemption, the boundaries of the ego/personhood have been broken and there is an opening towards some kind of new collectivity, perhaps an all-wimmern Eden. The highest point of the pyramid is open, the stream of wymin pours into an invisible vanishing point, there is flow instead of blockage and repetition. Kamarad Infinite Nymphomania noted that this is the first time women pass men by *until that point Charlotte is unable to give up on men and clings desperately to their protection as well as to their possession. In addition it seemed to me like she willingly committed suicide in Jesus’s hands, she wanted him to kill her, perhaps in order to be able to transsubstantiate into this Multitude.
I am doubting the designation of Dafoe as the Anti-Christ, because in all the interviews with von Trier that I read, he denies it.
In addition it seemed to me like she willingly committed suicide in Jesus’s hands, she wanted him to kill her, perhaps in order to be able to transsubstantiate into this Multitude.
this here is an excellent and timely discussion, because since a wimmerns killing heself in jesus’s hands would produce a Wimmern’s world, I wrote my Boyfriend last night that I had really gotten into intoning ‘I hate Jesus’, and was really getting off on it, because he really was just a man after all, and I have had it with her superior attitude. Boyfriend infinitely prefers my Satan attributes to Jesus, that goes without saying, and why shouldn’t he? Who says Jesus saved us from our sins, since even at age 7 I knew he had made no inroads at all on it! I go with ‘if you got it, flaunt it’, because that’s exactly what Jesus was doing, just with a different object-orientation of that flaunter and flaunted. And don’t be givin’ me any more of this ‘wimmernz Phallus’ business; because that was just the beginning of the Pitiful Rule of Komrade Nymphomania, everybody knows it gets back to the man having the Phallus, although I don’t deny their can be superior wimmernz–just look at Jezebel, Catherine Deneuve and Margaret Thatcher. There have always been superior wimmernz like this, and they do not spend all their time trying to split off men’s pissers, which alone can be true phalluses, unless you just want to be GHOULISHLY abstract.
Comment by Buck Fuller — 21 October 2009 @ 11:18 am
“There is no such constellation” — either the constellation is a construction of the observer, in effect a self-fulfilling prophecy, or else the observer is not aware of the real constellation that exerts its real influence outside of human conscious awareness.
Notably it is when Dafoe realizes that there is no such constellation (”there is no Big Other”) he decides to kill Charlotte, perhaps for the first time making a decision?
Von Trier insists that the man is not the Antichrist? Well that’s interesting: does he say who is then? How about this: the Gospel of John equates Jesus with the Word, through whom all things were made. So Antichrist becomes sort of the Antiword, the medium through which evil achieved materiality in the world.
I think you’re right, vopr, about the women at the end heading to the top of the pyramid, confronting that which they most fear, perhaps even becoming that fear. An all-women Eden? Certainly this particular outpost of Eden features a shrine to the victims of gynocide: at the top of the hill, in the attic of the cabin. I don’t understand the 40s skirts-and-sweaters attire, but I see no association anywhere in the movie with The Holocaust. I’d have thought maybe the women would have worn 16th century clothing based on the woman’s research project, but no. So I draw a blank, other than that that the outfits clearly identify the wearers as women.
Buck, I don’t believe that von Trier offers any sort of moral to his story regarding what to do about this underlying and pervasive evil. Fight it, join it, despair of it: none of these responses seem evident. He seems content (if that’s the right word) to reveal it. But I’d be curious to know what, at the age of seven, brought you to the knowledge of good and evil.
Well, I don’t know, I just immediately knew that John 3:16 didn’t make ANY sense at all! ‘God saved us from our sins’ is supposed to mean that we stopped doing them. We didn’t. We got worse. That’s why Von Trier may just be doing a gig, you know, just happens to be smart but knows all you can do, as you say, is document things if you’re not better at other things, say, the way Dejan is so good at marriage counseling.
Comment by Buck Fuller — 21 October 2009 @ 1:18 pm
Speaking of the knowledge of good and evil and Eden, the iconic tree in the screengrab is dead and bereft of fruit. The oak tree’s fruit isn’t eaten but is a source of knowledge. And right at the end, just before the women ascend the hill, the man eats some blackberries. So there are multiple allusions to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Is there a tree of life as well, from which Adam and Eve were banned and which is the hope of the resurrection in Christian tradition? Perhaps the iconic dead tree is the tree of antilife.
That the women ascend the hill/pyramid may allude to the crucifixion of Jesus on Mount Calvary. “Calvary” means “skull” in Latin: even before the crucifixion, legend among the Jews had it that the skull of Adam had through some roundabout means been buried at the foot of this mountain on the outskirts of Jersusalem, hence “place of the skull.” In von Trier’s Eden the hill is both the place of the woman’s death and of the women’s resurrection.
Related to the Holocaust, in Greek the word “holocaust” means “burnt offering,” which is part of the Hebrew sacrificial ritual. The man doesn’t bury the woman or leave her to rot in the cabin; he burns her. So perhaps, vopr, your investigation of Tarkovsky’s sacrifice theme should be resurrected here. We’ve observed that von Trier dedicated the film to Tarkovsky: I mostly saw connections between the woods in Antichrist and The Zone in Tarkovsky’s Stalker.
I’ve never seen The Sacrifice by Tarkovsky, but according to the plot summary it taps into themes addressed in von Trier’s movie. The Sacrifice isn’t the sort of film that’s easily downloadable, so I’ve requested it from interlibrary loan. It will be at least a week before I get my hands on it.
Still haven’t seen this yet. Sounds very good from all your interesting comments. Isn’t Gainsbourg supposed to be the Anti-Christ? No forgiveness, no redemption etc…?
Von Trier made it when he was depressed and has nothing good to say about therapists/analysts (both cognitive therapists and psychoanalysts, though he has been more vocal about the former. From what I’ve heard from friends who’ve seen it, I suspect he wanted to put on screen the actuality, the experience of depression. The jouissance of it, if you must.
I love Tarkovsky’s films up to Mirror but his last few films, including Stalker and The Sacrifice, just bore me, I’m afraid. Maybe I should see The Sacrifice again, it’s been years. I remember only the fire being any good.
Stalker used to be my favourite as a teenager but I find it almost intolerable now. Good idea though – and I still really like the poem by Tarkovsky’s dad at the end.
As is often the case, nb, the more I talk about a movie the more I like it. The Gainsbourg character as Antichrist? If so then we really are confronting a misogynistic story, which consigns all women to the devils, regards men the agents of good, and positions the Dafoe character as Christ. It’s not an impossible reading I’d agree. The ambiguity of interpretation is a good feature of the film, but as I said to Dejan in an early discussion, it makes a strong impact even without interpretation. I think it’s very good, though of course not everyone agrees.
Regarding therapy/analysis, the first shots are taken at cognitive-behaviorism, but in my view von Trier leaves analysis behind as well. At one point the man says something about how therapy has nothing to say about good and evil, which is where this story takes up residence. If von Trier were presenting the jouissance of depression I think we’d have a more Lacanian text. As you can tell by my remarks, I think it’s a religious meditation.
“The Gainsbourg character as Antichrist? If so then we really are confronting a misogynistic story, which consigns all women to the devils, regards men the agents of good, and positions the Dafoe character as Christ.”
Well, I hope it’s not misogynist. I’ll have to see it. He’s been accused of misogyny in nearly all his films, but I’d say he definitely wasn’t a misogynist. He often depicts misogyny – in context. Who knows? Perhaps he is, but his films aren’t.
I sort of meant by her possibly being Anti-Christ as Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ” (I haven’t read that one though). At least, that’s what first came to mind when I heard the title at the Cannes festival. I’m probably way off mark… Does she despise his “pity” or “goodness” a la Nietzsche etc?
I think you’re right that it probably is a religious meditation on good and evil. Perhaps nature is already evil (to the human) in that it is totally unforgiving, it does not believe in a cure…
Anyway, I won’t say any more till I’ve seen the damned thing!
Have you ever heard what Herzog has to say about nature? Here’s a link from Burden of Dreams:
Thanks for emplacing, NB. Herzog in a ridiculous reverie from 1982, in which he plays a cheap suburban novel lost in the world of fornication. Totally freaked out by the far greater beauty of nature’s obscenity, she finally admits to ‘loving it despite all’. So typique–this film director attitude. She just needs to GET FUCKED. And believe me, at that time, she was HOT, the was an ADS WITHOUT PRODUCT. I was disappointed to see a recent pic following my exclusive viewing here–she has not aged well. So film director-bullshit to say things like ‘the trees are in pain, the birds are in pain’. Helluva of a goodlooking fucker though, I would have known how to help her integrate herself into that environment of total fornication–I mean, short of a few setbacks like if that particular jungle was malarial. oooooohhhh so profound, so intense…what’s her problem, never read ‘Heart of Darkness’? What did she expect, Stourhead and Mozart?
‘when I heard the title at the Cannes festival’
All right, man, a full report, please, and please do not base on Ballard’s account, we don’t want to know whether there were snuff films on the side, or whether Deneuve knows that wicked ‘performance-art pieces’ are enacted daily during the lottteries. Would you have heard it this year or in previous years, when ‘Antichrist’ was artificially conceived? All ironic answers unwelcome, but expected. Hey, hey, that was sexy film, Herzog standing there like a beautiful wimmernz in the midst of all that INDIFFERENT NATURE that is masculinity and fucking. I couldn’t BELIEVE how attractive she was! so fragile and delicate, even had to hold onto her arms to keep her bearings.
Comment by Buck Fuller — 22 October 2009 @ 9:21 am
I just couldn’t believe the way she kept thinking that there was a difference in the ‘erotic’ and the ‘obscene’. I mean, what’s her PROBLEM? Of course, this ‘sensitive quandary’ made her femininity all the more attractive to me, day-amn, she was beautiful there just a-dreamin’ of….KLAUS (and I DON’T mean, the ‘homicide’, isn’ t’it?…)
Comment by Buck Fuller — 22 October 2009 @ 10:43 am
Herzog’s view of nature here resonates with von Trier’s. I suppose if one makes no distinction between the erotic and the obscene, then perhaps one has come to reconciliation with the evil and curse of nature. “The harmony of overwhelming and collective murder” — holy crap. “It’s not that I hate it; I love it, but I love it against my better judgment.” Rhapsodic dark romanticism of the Old World variety.
Regarding therapy/analysis, the first shots are taken at cognitive-behaviorism, but in my view von Trier leaves analysis behind as well.
Eloise, my impression was that the Unconscious, in a manner of speaking, is ”out in the open” precisely because psychoanalysis has been ”left behind”; Eden is the simulation of a simulation. Psychoanalysis has nothing to interpret here, because it’s already there, or better, already-will-have-been-there. The opening scene doesn’t move until the very epilogue: it’s just a repetition of the primal trauma.
So the reason I have problems with designating either him or her as the Antichrist, is that they both seem to perform pre-destined roles and they accede to them as well in what looks like resigned fashion; moments before he strangles her, he clearly doesn’t want to and if she said ”no” he would have stopped, but she gives him a consenting look and he proceeds (to strangle her). He also seems to put up such feeble resistance, given his superhuman strength, when being castrated. And the whole thing is played out as a parody, as horror gore camp. Again I am having thoughts about free will/predestination: what the constellation of the Three Beggars poses as a puzzle (in the beginning, the Three Beggars are seen on the wood puzzle in the bathroom, they knock it over while fucking).
I’m persuaded by these arguments that neither the man nor the woman is Antichrist, just as neither is Christ. Antichrist is spirit here. And I agree about the unconscious being out in the open. I tend to see the unconscious ss more overtly evil in the movie than is consciousness. But it’s more that, just as the consciousness is covering and ultimately overpowered by unconscious, so unconscious covers and is overpowered by spirit.
Going back to point zero, the film opens with the image of his hand opening a tap; then a close-up of her face, as the shower starts. Then the image of the wind opening the window, and the Three Beggars (on the table) are welcoming it. Did she invite the wind, with her witch powers? Or is it a window of possibility? Visually it introduces the idea of a flow.
I don’t quite understand the bottle with the water, is that referring to Creation, God’s semen? Suggesting that creation is just spilled onto the world randomly, knocked over.
Then clearly the child is motivated to jump out the window by the sight of the primal scene, them fucking. He casts a knowing glance at the audience before he proceeds. This is underlined by the parallel montage of his death and them climaxing, as if the product of their orgasm were the death of the child.
In between we see The Three Beggars again as a puzzle, for me, posing the question: are there pre-existing slots into which the puzzle fits, or are the slots created by the human mind.
These precise small moments and montages of ambiguous meaning reveal the hand of cinematic mastery controlling this alternate reality. The “knowing glance” introduced a Haneke intervention directed at the voyeuristic audience, implicating us in the cruelty. Parallel montage of death and climax: the parents are at fault for the child’s death because they are at fault for giving him life, cruel life always carrying within itself the seed of its own death. Agree about the Three Beggars: are there constellations of cosmic forces operating outside of consciousness and unconsciousness in the real, controlling our fates? As you say, vopr, the characters seem fated to do and to feel, beyond all individuation and agency. But as in Greek tragedy the characters are unwitting and willful accomplices in the unfolding of their own fate. Everything is intertwined, interdependent, overdetermined, inevitable.
Incidentally, I thought that this film had been released in the US long ago, but today is opening day. It’s a “limited release,” which means art houses only, which means no first-run showings here in multiplex-dominated Boulder.
The castration in Antichrist seems directed not at the symbolic order or even the oedipal triangle but at the implication of sex drive with birth and of birth with death. Cut off the sex organs and you cut off the evil cycle at the root. The nearly-castrated erect penis ejaculating blood testifies here as well. The water bottle pouring onto the floor, the semen pouring into the woman into the child and out the window onto the street, the acorns pelting the roof and falling to the ground…
Robert K. Merton’s concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy stems from the Thomas theorem
The Thomas theorem is a theory of sociology which was formulated by W. I. Thomas in the year 1928:In other words, the interpretation of a situation causes the action….
, which states that “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”}} According to Thomas, people do not react only to the situations they are in, but also, and often primarily, to the way they perceive the situations and to the meaning they assign to these situations. Therefore, their behavior is determined in part by their perception and the meaning they ascribe to the situations they are in, rather than by the situations themselves. Once people convince themselves that a situation really has a certain meaning, regardless of whether it actually does, they will take very real actions in consequence.
The best known example from Greek legend is that of Oedipus. Oedipus was a Greek mythology monarch of Thebes, Greece. He fulfilled a prophecy that said he would kill his father and marry his mother, and thus brought disaster on his city and family….. Warned that his child would one day kill him, Laius
(In Greek mythology, King Laius, or Laios of Thebes was a divine hero and key personage in the Theban founding myth. Son of Labdacus, he was raised by the regent Lycus after the death of his father….)
abandoned his newborn son Oedipus to die, but Oedipus was found and raised by others, and thus in ignorance of his true origins. When he grew up, Oedipus was warned that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Believing his foster parents were his real parents, he left his home and traveled Greece, eventually reaching the city where his biological parents lived. There, he got into a fight with a stranger, his real father, killed him and married his widow, Oedipus’s real mother.
Eloise in principle I could be content with the proposition that this beautiful film is about the horribleness, randomness and cruelty and then ultimately meaninglessness of life, but something tells me we’re on to something bigger here (maybe Tarkovsky will provide the ultimate clue), this among other things because it did not create the impression of nihilism, more a sense of ”wonderful terror” for want of a better word. I wonder why Theos Project isn’t already contributing by the way? This film has so much in common with his theological-heterosexual neurosis.
At the moment the awareness is still developing, and I only have hunches. For example, in that intro scene, there is a shot of the child’s shoes next to his feet: the shoes are inverted and distorted, and so is Eden I think. Not merely a flip-side view, not the ”other side of the coin”, not the repressed Unconscious that needs to be ”brought to light”, but anamorphotically distorted Unconscious.
Or realize that maybe calling nature and maybe even human evil was arbitrary to begin with, that maybe they aren’t evil at all, just random,
Ha whoever said that my correspondint ain’t brilliant was castratingly near-sighted. This is EXAC’LY where I was aiming. The arbitrariness that is all through the movie isn’t the problem, it’s why do the characters find themselves drawn to it.
I grant that my response is based on a single viewing, but I don’t see evidence of the characters or the director going beyond good and evil to the amoral randomness of nature, including human nature. In lamenting the loss of foundational goodness and emplacing the Real inside of a Spirit of Evil, von Trier seems to be occupying a European post-war late-modernist despair. And wasn’t despair the theme of the third Beggar and the title of the last part of the film? Do you see enough reconciliation in the epilogue to overturn or transform this despair? There’s certainly no embracing of randomness. To me the eternal return of the faceless women seems to betoken at best a fatalistic resignation to the futility. It’s at this same point that Nietzsche’s boat capsized and he went under.
The Disney thing though — von Trier set this movie in the US, even though he’s probably never been here. Why, do you suppose? Is America the heart of darkness or the source of redemption? It’s set in the far West, which always used to be the Promised Land, but it’s not California, which has become something else entirely in the world’s imagination. The woodsy part of Washington state betokens some presumably unspoiled wilderness, but in the film it’s always a return.
Not ‘probably’, he’s NEVER been here. It’s been pointed out a lot, but nobody’s brought it up much in the last couple of months.
For this reason, I have NO interest in Von Trier’s vision of America. This is the area in which I am exactly like Joan Didion, we are like ‘place fetishists’. She said, I think in 2003, something like ‘oh, places are all I get. There’s nothing for me without place’. This is something I almost forget with all the talk about these other elements. And for most it won’t be that important. For me, it’s like a big RED ALERT. I have no interest in seeing this work or anything else of his, because place is what I write about too. When I wrote ‘Deep Tropical Cine-Musique’, I had been to Los Angeles once, but LA is unique in that also much of it is delievered direcly through film, since that where ‘organic film’ grows. By the time of ‘Day of Cine-Musique’, I had been to LA six times and had seen huge amounts of it. The third book is about where I have lived for FORTY YEARS, but believe me, it is harder to write about New York even if you live in it; I’m not sure quite why. DeLillo can do it, Capote could do a good short story here and there, but his epic ‘Answered Prayers’, about the Upper East Side social scene he thought of himself as being involved with, but was really a spectator, never went past the three unpolished chapters published in Esquire (and they are not terrible, but they’re pretty ‘queeny’.) There are a number of others who are good at specific New York milieux, like Jerome Weidman’s Garment District books are first-rate in their capturing of the vulgarity. John Updike wrote ‘Brazil’ without going there either, and I don’t buy it, even though it had his usual technical skill. Didion such a ball-buster about place she gave Bob Woodward hell about going to Los Angeles ‘only twice’ and calling that ‘doing major research’, concluded by saying he’d written ‘political pornography’.
Comment by Ray Fuller — 25 October 2009 @ 10:04 am
The place in Antichrist is entirely abstract and could have been anywhere — Norway for example. I can only think that von Trier was making a political commentary, though that commentary too would be quite abstract in this movie. More likely he regards America as the home of the sort of positivistic rational psychology that the Dafoe character practices.
I did not see any links with America in Antichrist or why that would be important, but I liked the way he reduced it to a non-place in DOGVILLE (much as I have problems with the Eurotrash tone of that film; it was very easy for well-off Europeans to critisize Bush’s America).
Mirror extracts images from thought-memories and surrounds them in a world of time. Material objects are reflected in a mirror-image (time-image) as a double movement of liberation and capture, where the virtual object mirrors the real; as if, momentarily, the image in a mirror separates from its surface and crystallizes into physicality, only to reabsorb again and become mentality. In short, the time-image has an image-structure, a coalescence of the actual and the virtual. Donato Totaro explains that the physicality relates to matter as an extension of space and to the movement-image, while the mentality is tied into memory as a duration of thought and the time-image. The movement-image is a spatialized cinema, as seen in Hollywood genre films, where time is measured by movement and determined by action. The time-image is a temporalized cinema, as in the European art films, where the temporal links between shots are non-rational and incommensurable, resulting in the emergence of empty, disconnected spaces; what Deleuze calls “any-space-whatevers.”  Totaro correlates Bergson’s views on memory  with another form of the time-image concept:
The crystal-image, which forms the cornerstone of Deleuze’s time-image, is a shot that fuses the pastness of the recorded event with the presentness of its viewing. The crystal-image is the indivisible unity of the virtual image and the actual image … The crystal-image shapes time as a constant two-way mirror [like in Mirror] that splits the present into two heterogeneous directions, “one of which is launched towards the future while the other falls into the past. Time consists of this split, and it is … time, that we see in the crystal [the crystal of Mirror]” (Deleuze’s Cinema 2, pp. 81). 
A finely exquisite understanding of elementary quantum physics offers a penetrative insight in the Tarkovskian theory of time-pressure. The material duality of time [in Einstein’s general theory of relativity, time (t) is an equivalent coordinate to those of space (x, y, z), where all four quantities are expressible as a single 4-vector in space-time (x, y, z, t)]. The implication is tremendous because time behaves much like a light-wave that never stops moving, but also as a particle-wave that can be relatively arrested (an implication that allows for the direct perception of time in Tarkovsky’s cinema). It is not surprising that a cinematic physics exists which leads us to ask questions such as: “what is a time-thrust and/or time-pressure?” In response to this question, Totaro replies, simply, that it is the use of nature in cinema that guides and gauges the degrees of temporality of the audiovisual presentations and since nature exhibits an immense repertoire of all kinds of activities [water, fire, rain, mud, snow, wind, and even milk (just to name a few)], they become propagators of time-images in which the flow of time is perceived directly through a time-thrust or time-pressure.  The use of nature in film is purely organic and has a sense of circularity, akin to certain Eastern philosophies which, like Buddhism, are characterized by non-linear forms of thinking; for example parallelistic logic, where A is equal to not A, is in marked opposition to Aristotelian logic where A can never equal not A.
I saw that kvond had endorsed the Tarkovskian idea of the cut as time-pressure. Presumably this passage you cite from Deleuze explains it and links it to our present adumbrations on Antichrist. Unfortunately Deleuze’s explanation as you cite here, vopr, remains opaque to me. Perhaps you can elobarate?
Eloise that review fails on just about all counts, but most significantly as the dumb reviewer’s lack of insight into his own position as Von Trier’s controversy-generating dupe. I think Antichrist is a supreme joke on just that breed of reviewers. And for fuck’s sakes, even Roger Ebert was impressed!
I’m still trying to formulate this for myself but it was also present in INLAND EMPIRE and in FOUR MINUTES TO SAVE THE WORLD, this kind of a treatment of space/editing which is moving and yet not moving, but for starters, I think as I said before that Eden is the Unconscious:
akin to certain Eastern philosophies which, like Buddhism, are characterized by non-linear forms of thinking; for example parallelistic logic, where A is equal to not A, is in marked opposition to Aristotelian logic where A can never equal not A.
Did you evef finish watching Don’t Look Now, vopr? There are definite parallels in the story: American husband (Donald Sutherland) with British wife (Julie Christie), the child dies before the story begins, the wife starts going mad with grief, the husband takes her away to a place that is both idyllic and haunted… That film too is religio-mystical: instead of restoring people as a psychologist, the husband restores old churches, but deeper forces are at work undermining these positivistic reconstructions. And we have time inversions as well: the husband, who thinks his wife is dead, sees her dressed in black riding a boat with the two necromancers, but it turns out they’re on their way to his funeral.
Emerson wanted a traditional, realistic, psychologically-motivated movie rather than a mystical one. That he couldn’t see the connection with Tarkovsky’s creation of alternate realities is a glaring weakness on his part.
yes i watched it, and to be honest i didn’t quite understand the plot, although i could see it was a very well-done movie (nic roeg is a great director, he also made THE WITCHES, one of my all-time favorites). carpenter’s prince of darkness reminds me much more of that film, while antichrist really takes more from tarkovsky.
Pretty interesting comment at AWP by ‘David’, in case you didn’t see it, John.
Plus I had very nice exchange with Tom Carson, a superb writer who found a mistake in my comment about his work. My mistake all to my benefit. He’s someone whose writing you’ll remember even if you did’ht know a thing about him, and it’s always inventive and interesting. He was delighted I’d retained various details from his articles (the right ones, I mean), although he could well be underestimating himself. He’s always written good things, and is now movie critic of Esquire.
Here’s the thread, there are only 4 comments, I don’t know if David’s remark
is all that new to those of you who have been following all the flurry of analysis on this film (I probably know more about it than any other film I’ve never seen, and don’t plan to at the moment either)
This was the sentence that struck me, but not because I care about the film (I don’t, of course):
“I particularly liked the implication in the final scene that either Eden is really a Bosch type of hell which He is leaving, or that all life is a Bosch hell.”
Not that it makes any sense whatsoever, but it’s cleverly written and stimulates the imagination. One could as easily say (and I would) that “Eden is like the good parts of a Bosch type of hell, and the rest of life is like the bad parts of Bosch hell (except when there are ‘good parts.’)
I suppose the implication of the second half is that the faceless women heading for Eden at the end are coming out of the rest of the world wherein they were rendered faceless, which would make Eden some sort of sanctuary from Boschville. Dejan sees some sort of redemption in this closing scene, where perhaps the murder has cleansed Eden and made it safe for the women to return or something. I’m not persuaded; it seems more like Eden has been revealed as Ground Zero of hell. A week and a half have passed since I saw this movie, and I don’t feel any sort of desire to watch it again. But then again I rarely watch movies twice.
“I particularly liked the implication in the final scene that either Eden is really a Bosch type of hell which He is leaving, or that all life is a Bosch hell.”
This comes close to it but doesn’t quite get there, for what the movie takes from Bosch is akin to Lovecraft, although not in that clinical register; it is much much more ROMANTIC, and for me this is the most fascinating aspect of it. The horrible weirdness and abomination it depicts is a poetic pleasure to watch.
I don’t know if ”redemption” is the right word to describe the arrival of wimmern Multitudes, but contrasted with the protagonists’failed attempts to accomplish the unity of personhood, and the clash of their respective egos, the facelessness of the Wimmern feels tranquil, and it suggests the possibility of a collectivity.
Tranquil perhaps; possibly also mournful. The Handel aria at the end is the same as the one at the beginning, conveying a sense of circularity. At the beginning, of course, the lovemaking is juxtaposed with the child’s death; now, at the end, the woman’s death is followed by the ascent of all the faceless women. Thinking about it now I get the sense that the Gainsbourg woman’s tragic ending is depicted as representative or even archetypal, that she is everywoman just as this climbing collective is also everywoman.
The words to the aria might bring further nuance to the interpretation: Let me weep
my cruel fate,
and let me sigh for liberty.
May sorrow break these chains
Of my sufferings, for pity’s sake.
This music figured prominently in another movie: link here. The context is interesting in light of the grotesque castration scenes in Antichrist.
Off-topic: I think that Comrade Emelianov is right to complain about the fact that the object-orientologist coven always bitch they’re being unjustly attacked for claiming that they’re not interested in humans (dr. Sinthome says something like, ” OF COURSE it’s self-explanatory that we are merely DECENTERING the human and not forgetting him” ) but it’s not self-explanatory, there is a slippage, an excess of jouissance invested in the spectacle of refrigerators and coffie machines copulating, there is an industrial drone behind all this.
that’s a very good link to Farinelli there, and a clue to the centrality of castration (again!). my impression is that one of the things trier was saying is that all these attempts at integration, fucking, love, fail because of man’s perception of loss or splitting (which however isn’t there). i may be projecting my own obessions into it, but i get a sense for example that dafoe cannot cope with the ambiguity of the deer and the fox, the double bind message: chaos reigns, and yet there is a divine order. so when the wimmern pass by him, already his passive perplexedness is a relief from the extremities of passion and the black-and-white thinking.
John Fante — that’s the semi-fictionalized narrator I was trying to remember in a prior conversation, the guy from Colorado who wrote about being a writer in L.A. around the time Henry Miller was doing the same in Paris and NY. Good job Ray on that thread at Ads.
Other stories I’ve read of Fante are not good. There may be something besides ‘Ask the Dust’, but I haven’t found it. The 2006 move with Colin Farrell was, I thought, very good, but little attention was paid to it. The book does manage to have the sinister LA noir quality, though, although he’s no Chandler.
It was nice to have a civil exchange with a writer I think is first-rate, but basically wrong about Didion. The charge of her ‘East-coastness’ is true, but it was actually an asset: There was a period of time in the 60s and 70s in which she had a special profile in Los Angeles that did tower above everyone else’s out there, and it also–since it was not in New York, although she had lived here from 1958-1964 (I think that’s right, as a result of winning Vogue’s Prix de Paris prize)–seemed very singular, not exactly like an East Coast intellectual either (she usually prefers to call herself a ‘journalist’, and this is borne out by the copious output of political writing she’s done for NYReview of Books, but not the ‘pure intellectual’ like Sontag are really, almost all these philosophers and theorists who wouldn’t dream of seeing themselves other than intellectual). Carson is not quite right to call her a ‘rotten guide to L.A.’, because she was never a ‘guide to L.A.’, good or bad. As I also mentioned, her husband John Dunne, was totally in love with L.A., but he was a New Englander. She could be overly dramatic and narcissistic (much less so by now), but it is still one of the sharpest scalpels I’ve ever seen wielded, and there’s a weird casualness that she manages to get into those essay. The single page about ‘One night Janis Joplin came to a party at the big house in Hollywood’ is a miniature masterpiece; it focusses on how musicians wanted only complicated mixed drinks and refused to leave on time, when she wanted to observe bourgeois hours. This is a humour that goes through her work and if one isn’t in tune with it, you won’t see it as humourous. In the same essay, she writes a sentence that always cracked me up: ‘Our babysitter told me I had a death aura, and we sat and chatted about how this might be so’. She also sat in on several recording sessions of the Doors, and in her earlier collection ‘Slouching Toward Bethlehem’, she took dexedrin and gin in order to get through the ordeal of living with hippies to get a story. I think she’s adorable. She is big fan of DeLillo and Mailer and has some of the latter’s qualities.
I also didn’t think much of the point about ‘I’m’ as opposed to ‘I am’, that was part of the allergy some people have to her style. She wrote a marvelous NYRB of the 2004 Republican convention here right in the middle of her ‘year of magical thinking’ by just telling herself that her husband would say ‘you’re a professional, just do the piece’.
When reads from her own books, she reads it in a bored monotone, and that’s funny too. But I don’t think people usually realize what a sense of humour she has.
I think the spirits of the library are summoning me to read something by Joan Didion. I went to the stacks in the local branch library looking for Deliverance by James Dickey, but it wasn’t there. There, on the same shelf, sat Didion. (I’d say “there sat Didion, looking back at me” if I were trying to be cute. “…overly dramatic and narcissistic” — no wonder you like her so much (winky smiley). Although I’d say that you don’t write that way in the long form — much more extravagant in blogs. “‘Our babysitter told me I had a death aura…” I remember telling a babysitter once about my ability to extinguish streetlights — she was from Seattle, a second-generation hippie named Rainbow, in Boulder attending the (so I hear) nationally-renowned massage school. Anyhow, she told me she thought my ability had something to do with my head chakra being basically overcharged but a little out of alignment.
she told me she thought my ability had something to do with my head chakra being basically overcharged but a little out of alignment.
I knew it was something exactly like that, but only these babysitters can ever get it right. Maybe since it’s overcharged, there would be some kind of combustion if the streetlights didn’t go out, and the misalignment works independently of the rest of the chakra, so just delivers a karate chop to all that excessively wasteful energy.
‘a second-generation hippie named Rainbow’
Love those naturist hippie names, Leaf, River, etc. I had remembered that the Canadian actor Don Francks–mostly a character actor for some decades now, but early on did star in the very good film adaptation of ‘Finian’s Rainbow’ opposite Petula Clark and with Fred Astaire–had become an honorary member of the Cree Nation and had some children with these kinds of names. The one I remembered was ‘Cree Summer’, but he also has a son named Rainbow.
Comment by Ray Fuller — 1 November 2009 @ 10:23 am
“there is a slippage, an excess of jouissance invested in the spectacle of refrigerators and coffie machines copulating, there is an industrial drone behind all this.”
What makes me think you’re on to something, vopr, is the sort of fiction that gets associated with the speculative realism movement. Lovecraft, Ballard, Houellebecq, Thomas Ligotti — all sort of inhuman with a techno/metal rhythm. This sort of jouissance is explicitly horrific and undead and haunted — no wonder they find vampires so hot.
The Tempress said ”I’ve found that people have a hard time distinguishing the fact that I cannot exist without certain prior relations among my bodily organs from the fact that, once I exist, I do exist in independence from everything else. Lack of oxygen can kill me, but what it then kills is me, not my relation with oxygen.”
and I had to think of Cher: ”But sooner or later, we all sleep alone”
I hadn’t thought of that possibility, Rocco. The child does have a strange sort of gleam in his eye as he heads out the window. Is this an Oedipal child, getting revenge on a mother who has sex with the father rather than with himself? Or is it the revenge of procreation itself, of the horrifying chaos of birth and death? Or is this particular child evil?
Yes and consider this. The movie reminds me of Milton’s Paradise Lost, examining Eve’s role in Eden. Von Trier finds his woman guilty. She has willfully deformed the child’s feet (the child is named Nick – a Satanic reference), she has “ignored” a premonition of her child’s death (the crying in Eden) and she very possibly witnessed the death of her child. Before the woman attacks the man with the log (the same log the child is playing with during the crying in Eden) there are two cameras shots, returning to the opening sex scene. Remember, the child has “witnessed” their sex scene. These two shots show the woman looking where the child would have been standing in this scene, suggesting that she at least knew the child was out of his crib.
Interesting. So if the child is a Satanic being and the opening scene is the Fall, then the child was tempting the woman. Is he tempting her to ignore him, to disregard her role as mother so she can pursue her own pleasure, sex decoupled from procreation?
I didn’t remember that the child had been playing with a log. The log is phallic, with the woman wielding it as a castrating tool, as if she wanted to change roles with the man. So if the child was also playing with this phallic object and crying…?
Definitely, sex decoupled from procreation. The use of the log is not simply a castration tool but parallel to Eve’s response in Paradise Lost when Adam attempts to go off on his own. The woman is actually attempting to bind the man to her, first by masturbating him (showering herself with blood and semen), then by literally preventing his physical movement, just as the town bounds Grace to them in Dogville.
That’s excellent, because neither is ‘done neatly’. Makes me wonder if half the time we put into ‘getting things organized and in order’ is because both of the realest events really are chaotic, the perfect word for both of them, btw.
Comment by Ray Fuller — 20 November 2009 @ 2:09 pm
The Willem Dafoe character is definitely a guy who wants to “get things organized and in order.” “Chaos reigns,” says the silly animatronic fox to him, but arguably that’s the antichristic take-home message.
I am perplexed by the designation of the animatronic fox as silly, by the way, because the way she pronounces her line is poignant, poetic. This is like uttering a Poetic truth. Maybe it’s just our fucked up post-modern brains that cannot see poetry anymore for what it is, but have to give it a tint of parody or at least ironic distance. Although animatronics are, in this context, a distancing device, so he could have done a puppet of the fox instead, I’m sure they have the correct technique to make it look realistic.
I keep experiencing this film as a beautiful Takovskyan dark fairy-tale, it’s very hard to resist its visual charms, the power of its images.
Maybe it’s just our fucked up post-modern brains that cannot see poetry anymore for what it is, but have to give it a tint of parody or at least ironic distance.
It’s about time you diagnosed yo’ own symptoms, sistah. You been diagnosin’ evahbody else’s foh too goddam lawng. You realize you wrote this less than an hour after telling me I supported Arpege’s essential positionalism.
Comment by Ray Fuller — 21 November 2009 @ 11:01 am
And the initial scene I think is brilliant for suggesting (through the child’s gaze at the audience before it decides to jump out the window) that the Primal Scene is a set-up, something that will unfold anyway, and it does seem to unfold for an eternity in that hypnotic slow motion that turns time out of joint. It’s like the child is saying we’re all going to die anyway so why bother patricipating in this theater in anycase. So through a kind of a Brechtian Vervreemdung Von Trier is I think saying that through some horrible ontological error we seem to perceive our lives as a mistake.
I forgot that you found the speaking fox so poignant, vopr. What if we’d only seen the fox eating himself from inside out, and it hadn’t said anything? Better, don’t you think — more ambiguous, more horrifying. So keep the fox, lose the voice. I like your comment #70 very much, and think it gets to the heart of the film.
What if we’d only seen the fox eating himself from inside out, and it hadn’t said anything?
But then on the other hand I liked the film’s verging on sadistic parody, which in a way it is, I think the project in humorless mode would be off-putting because it would be too much like a modernist film.
Stalker I’ve seen — Eden reminded me of the Zone. But I was trying to figure out why von Trier dedicated this movie to Tarkovsky, and in earlier comments the voice of parodic reason suggested that Sacrifice might be the comparable film.
John, in that case, you may also like ‘The Killer Who Stalked New York’, by Desiree Von Phflapp, and ‘Stalked in the Corn’, which was a kind of payback film to Desiree, a well-known Chinese tranny, by Patrick Mullins.
Comment by Ray Fuller — 22 November 2009 @ 3:27 pm
You’re a better ‘automatic-fictionist’ that I am, of course. I just keyed in ‘stalked’ at IMDb and found these titles, they are real movies, although I didn’t look further into them, could be cheap cable B-movies. ‘Stalked in the Corn’ is just perfect as a counter-reformation (which is exactly what I’m providing these days) or ‘Rodney King Payback’, etc., stupidly used after the O.J. verdict. ‘Shucked in Silk’ does sound promising, though, since we now have new SheMale resources linked to (properly, after the usual lying about them in an attempt to arouse desperation) at CPC, which feature Chrysanthemums a la Desiree–I mean you KNOW how Shemaies are just so into silk…I don’t think Christian will use just the actual photo on the site copied into the book, so I am going to get Jack to draw it. I can’t believe we are now being expected to provide ARTWORK for Desiree’s Stalker-Prose.
Comment by Ray Fuller — 22 November 2009 @ 5:53 pm
Jodianne Fossey writes how in totalitarianism, the Real is out in the open; though I don’t agree with the underlying ”dekline of simbolik efikasy”, this is a fairly accurate description of the post-post-modern malady:http://jdeanicite.typepad.com/i_cite/2009/11/totallytotalitarian.html
And this is also what I meant about the Unconscious in Antichrist
But then the brilliant Orbis Mediologicus featuring Jonathan Beller takes it one step further
The question, then, becomes, some error – some ontological error – forces us to perceive time in this one, linear dimension, and this is why castration is necessary, even as it’s quite apparently a simulation like anything else in the ”externalized Unconscious”.
Not only does the child have a look of serenity (self-satisfaction?) as he falls from the window, after witnessing their original, the child turns in the doorway and smiles at the camera – the audience, the most omniscient being in the framework of the movie, who look upon the action. The child’s serenity as he falls could be indication of the success of his purpose, causing the fall of man.
The smiling (or leering) at the camera seemed like a Haneke move: the audience is complicit in the pain that von Trier is about to inflict on his characters, starting with a child for God’s sake. We enjoy these sadistic spectacles mounted for our pleasure, watching them from the position of the already-fallen.
I totally agree. I love Haneke too. If you have never seen Benny’s Video, go get it. It plays like a precursor to Funny Games and many of the actors overlap. If you allow it, it “imagines” the adolescence of the main intruder. By the way, his new film “The White Ribbon” is excellent too.
So the fall of the child is a synecdoche for the fall of man. And since at least Augustine, Christian tradition has blamed man’s sin for causing the fall of nature, including the introduction of death into the world.
Christian tradition has blamed man’s sin for causing the fall of nature, including the introduction of death into the world.
That’s the problem with Christians, really thinking ‘blame’ about such matters means something: These things are all ‘nature/natural’, and ‘nature’ can’t ‘fall’ no matter if there were nuclear blasts–who knows, maybe if everything were arid and blistered we’d call it Father Nature. Nice phrase ‘introduction of death into the world’, although I rather doubt any theologian or saint, for that matter, has any access to the period when it was ‘introduced’. Phrase is amusing, though, because it reminds me of a movie opening or a ‘coming-out ball’ for a debutante. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to ‘DEATH!’
The more discussion about this film (more than I’ve ever read upon one’s opening than ever before), the more I find seeing it altogether superfluous at this point. Of course, I expect the response to that is ‘but no, you HAVE NOT seen it’. Indeed not, and not a greater worry of mine. It sounds good in a way, but not worth the money I could spend elsewhere. Movies are simply GROSSLY overpriced for their worth. I think $12.50 is ludicrous, esp. since I pay $10 for amazing live performance at at least one venue here (although that is the only one), but still…I just think the fees for movies are appalling, even when the live performance is twice or three times the amount. I hate that I had to go to see ‘Inglorious Basterds’, for example, in terms of the movie, although that was the therapy I needed at the time, before I could jumpstart the was campaigns without a ‘human marital aid agent’.
Comment by Ray Fuller — 23 November 2009 @ 10:37 am
Considering that most of what we believe and know about the garden of Eden and fall of man comes from Paradise Lost and not the Bible, blame is integral to our understanding it. Our conversations are “superfluous?” No, this is a forum to enhance and work out our understanding of a dense and remarkable film. You who have not seen the film interferes with our ongoing discussion and the development of our understanding of the film. I use these sites to work out my thought in preparation for writing and publication. As far as I know, this is a site to discuss the film, not the price of films. But, I’m sure there is a blog that supports your ideas. By the way, this film is available on IFC on Demand for five dollars, available on digital cable and satellite.
I think the problem is rather that you find it hard to get activated, and you revel in the selfsame couch potatoness that the internet offers while vehemently dismissing it in a tone only the high-pitched Norma Desmond could reach talking about the Silent Era. Anyho’ I somehow think this movie would be to your liking, it’s evil enough and full of polluting.
I get a lot of exercise every day, or if not a lot, I walk at least 2-3 miles. I am not amused. Especially since I do go to live performance as well–I already told you about the Chinese and will be seeing both the Ballet Hispanico and Pacific Northwest Ballet in the next 4 weeks, BOTH of which cost $2.50 less tha Antichrist.
I don’t dismiss the internet, I have just defined its limits in our book, and part of that was capturing the work of one of the leading internet freaks of the world and used it without his permission, since he thinks obscurity is some sort of virtue.
Comment by Ray Fuller — 23 November 2009 @ 11:30 am
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to ‘DEATH!”
lol — that’s either the Mel Brooks or the Monty Python version of the Fall.
Thanks for the support for film discussion, Rocco. I do run a moderately promiscuous establishment here, in which complaints about movie ticket prices may be aired. Just ignore the parts you don’t like and we’ll be fine.
I recently read a book by Elaine Pagels entitled Adam, Eve, and the Serpent which traces the heavy-handed treatment of the Eden story specifically to Augustine. Before him the Creation was still pretty widely regarded as good. Even mankind wasn’t consigned to total depravity, since the Bible itself makes really no big deal about the long-term consequences of Adam and Eve getting tossed from Eden. St. Paul gets the ball rolling, but Augustine really lets it rip. I think I mentioned once on this blog that Augustine regarded the spontaneous erection as proof of the corruption of human nature, copulation in his ideal world being an entirely rational affair intended solely for propagating the species.
“I use these sites to work out my thought in preparation for writing and publication.”
I think discussion forums such as these are parallel to the same interconnected conversations that film analysts have had for years before the Internet. These forums continue the Socratic discussion which is useful to me in my writing. I am a adjunct English professor and sometimes I will publish for the university journals and blogs as well as submit to small presses. Occasionally, I get something published, but more often not. It all depends on if your argument convinces your audience. More often, I end up reading my work at literary conferences. I just read at Wesleyan College a paper I wrote on an anti-book sentiment in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Thanks for your interest, John.
Our conversations are “superfluous?” No, this is a forum to enhance and work out our understanding of a dense and remarkable film. You who have not seen the film interferes with our ongoing discussion and the development of our understanding of the film.’
I did not say that your conversations about the film were superfluous, nor do I think it. It does not interfere with your discussion of the film nor ‘the developmnet of your understanding of the film’. This is not a site where certain kinds of pleasantries and drolleries are not allowed, or at least that has been my understanding.
‘As far as I know, this is a site to discuss the film, not the price of films. But, I’m sure there is a blog that supports your ideas. By the way, this film is available on IFC on Demand for five dollars, available on digital cable and satellite.’
I did not object to anyone seeing the film, and I do not want to see it for five dollars either. But it is not impossible that ‘ideas suggested by the film’ are not relevant’, just because I have chosen not to see it. John censors, but not when it’s reasonable. I do not feel ‘superior’ for not wanting to see this film, I just don’t want to see it. But it interferes with none of your discussion. YOU are not the only one discussing it. You can just ignore me, of course. I am interested in one thing you said here, but the film is ‘not sacred’, and so much larger issues come up from the film than just those in the film itself, John can delete me when he wants, and does do so. But if you don’t like hearing what I say about the stupid prices of film, then you may certainly keep silent about where I can get it ‘more cheaply’. I already know about that, thank you.
Comment by Ray Fuller — 23 November 2009 @ 1:50 pm
‘I use these sites to work out my thought in preparation for writing and publication.’
Okay, you know, the rest of us ‘use these sites’ for the same reason. And yours, while different, is not necessarily more important than our own. The ultimate decision as how ‘sites are to be used’ is by the proprietor, not you nor me. But he has shown himself perfectly determined to police his own site, and does it pretty well by comparison to most, so that I get censored sometimes, but not by you here. I can ‘use this site’ for my purposes if you can. It’s not your or my decision. When I go too far, John takes care of it, but you just tend to your own ‘usage’. You’ll notice that there was a beaujolais post, and that was ample evidence of the fact that John does not object to breadths of discussion into areas that are not ‘soberly serious’ at all times.
Comment by Ray Fuller — 23 November 2009 @ 1:55 pm
I think my brilliant correspondent is the first instance, in the history of film criticism, of a professional SPOILER, and I believe this talent is bankable as well, say as a reincarnation of Pauline Kael blended with Norma Desmond.
Rocco I think the idea of Nick as Antichrist is a Hitchcockian ”McGuffin”, no more and no less important than any number of other references that are made in the film to Satanic movies of yore. But your thought led me to think about the Anti- in AntiChrist; is it an anti-thesis, or more like a distorted mirror image, or is the relationship between Christ and AntiChrist more complex, Moebial.
Darling I would not recommend this movie to you for any of the content being discussed here, rather, it’s for its incredible visceral power, its images. Not just the shock-images, but also, the beautiful images of the forest.This is cinema in the proper sense, if the movie was about nothing it would still be saying something through these images. But it’s not Lynchian, or even Tarkovskyan, it’s von Trier, his own stuff. And I believe only a cinema viewing can do it justice.
‘think my brilliant correspondent is the first instance, in the history of film criticism, of a professional SPOILER, and I believe this talent is bankable as well, say as a reincarnation of Pauline Kael blended with Norma Desmond.’
As Barbara Walters would say ‘I couldn’t agwee mo-ah.
Comment by Ray Fuller — 23 November 2009 @ 10:08 pm
If you are referring to Paradise Lost, that is John Milton – similar proposition to Dante’s Inferno. Paradise Lost focuses on Eve and her role and active participation in the original sin, her temptation of Adam, his loss of sin, his blame of her, and leaving her, her repentance, his return and her eventual elevation to the epic heroine in Eden (in brief, sans Satan). Actually, Von Trier finds her guilty and condemns her, much different from Milton. So, the misogyny is there (Christ, they practically choke her to death – it appears real, no animatronics or make-up), Von Trier just doesn’t like men that much either.
Last night I finished watching Tarkovsky’s Sacrifice. Portentious, ponderous, ultimately silly. However, the paradisiacal landscape blighted by human corruption is central, as it is in Stalkers. In the last line of the film a young boy who had previously been mute speaks to the dead tree he and his father had planted He says something like this: “In the beginning was the Word — why is that so, Papa?” So Sacrifice sets the stage for Antichrist and its dead tree in Eden.
This is only a strange coincidence, but something I thought worthy of pointing out.
The dead tree transition in Antichrist is eerily similar to this portentous transition from, of all things, A Place in the Sun.
The tree appears right after the murder, and is in direct contrast to the “Eden” that Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift share at the very same location earlier.
Talk about working with archetypes.
Comment by Jonah Gruber — 14 February 2010 @ 2:13 pm
Nice work, Jonah — it even looks like the same tree. I’ve never seen A Place in the Sun, having been a bit slow on many of the great movies from the fifties. I’ll have to get on it. The plot description sounds similar to Murnau’s Sunrise, which I watched a few months ago and in which the murder is averted. Apparently A Place in the Sun is based on Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, which I’ve not read.