Leave it to Lars von Trier to spoil a perfectly pleasant Sunday evening at Cannes with graphically depicted sexual mutilation. The director’s Antichrist — starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe as a husband and wife grieving the death of their young son — made its debut at the film festival yesterday, earning loud boos and baffled reviews. Why? The movie features graphic sex and a talking fox, but most controversial, apparently, are a pair of vivid scenes in which Gainsbourg’s character, who’s off her meds, commits acts of unprintable violence on the couples’ genitals (raves Variety: “[she] finds a way to impale him that Hollywood’s leading torture-porn experts will kick themselves over not having dreamed up first”). So what does she do, exactly? Read on only if you want to skip lunch and cross your legs for the rest of the day!
We suppose the following could technically be considered a spoiler, though we can’t imagine anyone would want to be taken by surprise by something like this in a movie theater. Are you sure you actually want to read this? Really? Really?? Okay!
So far, no review has gone into gruesome details, though, from what we gather, here’s how it goes down, more or less: After knocking him unconscious, Gainsbourg bores a hole in Dafoe’s leg with a hand drill and bolts him to a grindstone to keep him from escaping. Then, she smashes his scrotum with some sort of blunt object (the moment of impact happens slightly below the frame). We don’t actually see his testicles become disengaged from this body, though it’s apparently implied. Next, she brings him to a climax with her hands and he ejaculates blood (yes, it’s shown). But that’s not all! Later, in an extreme closeup — lensed by Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle! — Gainsbourg cuts off her own clitoris with a pair of scissors.
So, as you might’ve guessed, Antichrist is one of those love-it-or-hate-it movies. Roger Ebert calls it “the most despairing film I’ve ever have seen.” Jeffrey Wells brands it a “fartbomb.” Movieline’s David Bourgeois says it’s “the most original and thought-provoking work von Trier has done since Breaking the Waves.” Variety’s Todd McCarthy, who must’ve been seated in the same row as Wells, says the movie “cuts a big fat art-film fart.” Our favorite reaction, though, is from the Times’s Manohla “Movie Killer” Dargis, who Ebert says he heard singing “That’s Entertainment!” as she left the theater.