Toby Young Toby Young

Status Anxiety | 25 July 2009

‘Antichrist’ is the comic masterpiece of a con artist mocking fans of high culture

‘Antichrist’ is the comic masterpiece of a con artist mocking fans of high culture

Is Antichrist, the new film from Lars von Trier, a comedy? At first glance, that seems like a ludicrous suggestion. It contains some of the most disturbing images I’ve ever seen in the cinema, including a scene in which Charlotte Gainsbourg performs a clitoridectomy on herself. How could anyone describe such a film as a comedy?

Certainly, von Trier has given no hint that Antichrist is intended to be funny. In the production notes he has written a ‘confession’ in which he claims to have produced the script as a form of therapy after a bout of depression. ‘Scenes were added for no reason,’ he says. ‘Images were composed free of logic or dramatic thinking.’ To anyone who has seen the film, this will come as no great surprise. But the passage that really jumps out is the following: ‘The script was finished and filmed without much enthusiasm, made as it was using about half of my physical and intellectual capacity.’

This isn’t a ‘confession’ so much as a typical bit of bravado — a two-fingered salute to those Hollywood hacks who feel obliged to promote their films. In effect, von Trier is telling us that he is far too grand to get involved in the marketing side of the business, even though this statement is included in a document that has been produced for the purposes of marketing the film. I’m no genius, as von Trier claims to be, but it seems clear that such Olympian insouciance is a form of branding, a way of conveying that he is an artist and that Antichrist is a work of art. It is a direct appeal — a ‘pitch’, if you will — to all those high-minded souls who loathe and detest the American entertainment industry and rank films according to how aggressively non-commercial they are.

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