Lars von Trier’s gothic horror film Antichrist sounds, to put it put it mildly, like a miserable story—a couple trying, and utterly failing, to get over the accidental death of their young son descend into mutilating each other and themselves. And that’s the delicate description.
But how to interpret that story has got some critics in a debate over motherhood, sex, guilt, and misogyny.
At Cannes, along with its lead actress capturing the Best Actress prize, the film also was given an “anti-prize” for misogyny, with the idea that the mother is portrayed as liking sex better than her kid and somehow responsible for his death.
But critic and mother Deborah Orr makes a startlingly opposite argument, saying that it’s not misogyny to explore those dark fears that mothers have about somehow being the agent of their children’s death through the smallest of accidents, not to mention the complex experience of having erogenous zones suddenly do double duty as birth passages and sources of nurturance. Von Trier may be a misogynist, says Orr, but at least he’s “interested in the experiences of women under stress.”
Her arguments intrigue me, but I have to admit, not enough to make me want to see the film. I never was one for horror, but as a parent, I get flustered by a gratuitous two-second shot of a crying toddler in the town-sacking scene in Pirates of the Caribbean. I am, however, glad that it gave Orr the excuse to write about such taboo subjects.
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