Devil's Advocates: Antichrist Book Review
Written by Joel Harley
Published by Auteur Press
Written by Amy Simmons
2015, 112 pages, Reference
Released on 23rd July 2015
Of all the films selected for the Devil’s Advocate treatment thus far, few have been so ripe for unpacking as this: Lars von Trier’s infamous Antichrist. Here writer Amy Simmons tackles the arthouse shocker head on, giving it the Devil’s Advocates treatment the film so deserves.
I am a big fan of Devil’s Advocates and even more so of Lars von Trier movies (this one being tied with Dancer in the Dark and the Nymphomaniacs as my favourite), so I had eagerly anticipated Simmons’s Antichrist for a while. This film is the director’s version of a horror film – a von Trier cabin in the woods, if you will – and yet it is too frequently ignored by the same reverse-snobbery that seems to think that if a film is too classy or arthouse (see the current hubbub over The Witch) then it can’t be ‘real’ horror. Well nuts to that; Antichrist is as horror as horror gets, and evidence of the versatility of the genre. It’s the arthouse remake of The Evil Dead that no actual remake could ever be.
There’s plenty of material to be unpacked, from von Trier’s curious gender politics (reportedly an ass to his actresses, but largely sympathetic to their plight –there’s no doubt that Willem Defoe’s ‘He’ is the real villain of Antichrist, for example) to his use of unreliable perspective late in the film. Simmons covers all of these subjects and more in a manner that is informative and easily digestible, the lengthy chapters giving plenty of breathing room. “Chaos reigns,” Von Trier’s loquacious fox famously snarls in one of the film’s more playful scenes – well, Simmons does a great job of making sense of that chaos. There’s plenty of material here, but I could have kept on reading – here the series’ relatively short format had me wishing for much more, even where there might not be that much left to say.
Like most in the Devil’s Advocates collection, Antichrist makes for a fun read, especially if you happen to be a fan of the film in question. Insightful, passionate and smart, it’s yet another in a series that is quickly becoming the go-to for fun, quirky discussion of (often overlooked) film. The only thing being that it will leave you wanting to watch Antichrist again. A dangerous proposition, then, for Antichrist is not a re-watch to be taken lightly.