Hip-hip-hurray for Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, a ballsy B-movie riff off Bergman and Tarkovsky by way of Evil Dead that treads over the whole gamut of art-house clichés, was clearly improvised day in and day out, and emerges from this morass of portentousness and pretentiousness as a hilarious, fucked up and unqualifiable experiment in make it so cinema. It moves faster and with more surprises than any movie in Cannes—and this despite rehashing only the most overdone of horror and art-house conventions—requires no certain belief in its rationale or plausibility, and jumps from one barely formed idea—visual or conceptual—to another with the reflexive awkwardness von Trier espouses through his ad hoc camerawork and face-slapping jump cuts. Antichrist is like Herzog—pleased simply to figure out how to record what is in front of the camera as a strange thing; except that von Trier takes more pleasure in constructing his self-aware cinema in post-production. Unlike Herzog, there is no joy in the filmmaking, but there is an insidious glee in the assembly, in moving from one barely working shot, line, performance, or concept to another, and always, always telling us “that failed, we’ll try this now.”
But let’s get back to the talking fox, as this film is batshit insane. Poised on the conceit of an overbearing male intellect (Willem Dafoe) fixing the unstable body and psyche of a female (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and funneling them through haphazard horror, feminist, and witchcraft references as if they occured to the filmmakers just that day on the set, the film is nothing but a comical but remarkably unnerving assembly. Threadbare in emotion and meaning, but insistent on existing, on doing this, on moving to that, on finishing this damn movie, there has rarely been a film that is so hyper-aware of its own movieness, its own sense of itself as something not just being made but that must be ended, written off, moved on from. Come an idea, come funding, birth a movie. It's a scavanger film that is only too well aware of its superficial plunder and hurried, frenzied result. Who needs to think things through, who needs to explore when one simply has to create? And respect must be given for such creation, especially of the bitterly aware, deranged kind. Antichrist was made because it could be, and its contents exist because they can—and why not?—and the lesson probably is that this is but a film and there will be others.