RT Interview: Lars von Trier on Antichrist
The Danish director on his controversial latest.
If you go down to the woods today... Well, just don't. Danish provocateur Lars von Trier's arthouse psychohorror Antichrist is the most controversial film of the year -- and the most gruelling. Written by von Trier while he was bedridden with depression, it sees Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a grieving couple who retreat to a woodland cabin to recover from the death of their baby son. But healing quickly turns to horror as their wounds are ripped wide open: hardcore sex, ultraviolence, emotional meltdown, graphic torture and, um, a talking fox. It's a bizarre, powerful, audacious curio that's tough to swallow but even harder to ignore. Having spent his career ripping up the cinematic rulebook with daring, dazzling movies like The Idiots, Dancer In The Dark and Dogville, von Trier calls Antichrist the most important film of his life.
It's a great title for a horror film...
Lars von Trier: I always thought it was a good title. It's not really a horror film and it's not really religious. So if it's a good title for this film, I don't know! But it's a good title.
Did you expect Antichrist to be so controversial?
LvT: No, not really. That suits me fine. I could see that in Cannes that there were people beforehand that had decided already either not to like it or like it. But very few countries are going to censor the film. The only country in Europe that's going to censor it is Germany. In America, we don't know yet. It's not a big problem for me.
How did you persuade Willem Dafoe to star?
LvT: Originally, we were thinking of younger people. But Willem sent me a letter asking if I had some work for him. And I said, 'Sure!' He was a little reluctant to start with, but then my wife did this brilliant thing. She said, 'You dare not take the part!' And you shouldn't say that to Willem! So he jumped in.
Is it true that Eva Green wanted to play the female role?
LvT: We spent a long time looking for the female. And yes, Eva Green wanted to do it so we nearly had a Bond girl in the film! We had lots of discussions but her agents definitely didn't want her to do it. We wasted two months. I was so mad, because you can't wait two months.
So how did you get Charlotte Gainsbourg?
LvT: Charlotte came in and said, 'I'm dying to get the part no matter what.' So I think it was a decision she made very early and she stuck to it. We had no problems whatsoever.
Charlotte Gainsbourg in Antichrist.
Was she worried about the nudity and violence?
LvT: After reading the script and discussing with me how those scenes were going to be made, there was never any doubt in her mind. That's fantastic. And I'm very, very happy that she got the Best Actress prize in Cannes. It was a courageous performance because she is a very, very shy person.
What about the hardcore sex scenes?
LvT: We used porn actors. In fact, it was funny, for the scene in which she masturbates him and the blood comes out, they just kept on going. I could not understand it. And then someone told me that in porn you are not allowed to stop until the director tells you! So this poor guy was incredible...
Do you worry that audiences with get numbed to the violence?
LvT: Yeah, yeah, of course. But when you think about all the footage we now see from real life, I feel like you can show anything. But then when it becomes fictional, there's a limitation. So it's very strange.
You've been suffering from depression for some time. How did that affect you on this film?
LvT: I felt like an old man that was helped through the film by the actors. I was not at my very best, so all the things that I normally enjoy, I was not able to do. I couldn't direct and handle a camera at the same time. I just didn't have the mental capacity. I have been under therapy for several years.