It's rare that I find myself truly indifferent to a film -- especially a film that is so clearly and openly divisive. But that's exactly how I feel about Antichrist: completely indecisive. I see both sides, understanding the people who love it, voraciously devouring every lyrical moment, while simultaneously getting why people hate the living crap out of it. A deliberately offensive opus of shock, this film will at some moment find something disagreeable for everybody. But unlike most films that rely upon shock, director Lars von Trier has no intention of making you laugh. Quite the contrary. He wants to make you recoil. He wants to challenge your sense of morality and taste. And he wants to make you feel, one way or another.
Perhaps because Mr. von Trier is at once an incurable optimist and an inveterate ironist, the forces of order usually seem to win. At the end of "Breaking the Waves" (1996) giant church bells appear in the heavens to announce the ascension of the film's saintly, self-sacrificing heroine (Emily Watson), an image as silly as it is sublime. The equivalent moment of rhetorical excess in his new film, "Antichrist," is very different and much darker. In a primeval forest a fox takes time out from gnawing on its own exposed entrails to turn to the camera and hiss, "Chaos reigns!"
That scene, along with a few others involving explicit sex and graphic violence (sometimes both at once), earned "Antichrist" whistles and catcalls when it was screened for the press at this year's Cannes Film Festival, where the film won a best actress award for Charlotte Gainsbourg.