ANTI-CHRIST & AVATAR – An Afternoon of Alienation
I had a fun double-feature on Thursday. Not yesterday, but the week before that. I saw the new Lars Von Trier joint, Antichrist, followed by James Cameron’s dozen-years-in-the-making, Avatar. I felt this was important for several reasons. The religious connotations in the titles alone was enough to make me excited for such a silly endeavor.
First, I have to say that the likelihood that I’ll watch either one of these films again is slim to nil. A second viewing of Antichrist has a certain masochistic allure to it, which, I suppose, is similar to the idea of watching Avatar again. Avatar, however, has neither the poetic beauty of Antichrist, nor the camp-appeal of Plan 9 from Outer Space. Visually, yes, the Cameron spectacle succeeds in many ways. His alien world is particularly seductive, but it’s a shame none of the characters, actions, or dialogue are as attractive or memorable as Divine.
Overall impressions? Of Antichrist: I felt like I had seen every image in the film before, which I credit to the dream-like and archetypal aesthetic used. As an example of the horror genre, I think it is a tremendous and ground-breaking, if blunt, success. The causes and effects are innovative yet classical, evoking a visceral reaction that owes as much to Clive Barker as it does Carl Theodor Dreyer. The genitorture is gross and extreme. The misogyny is strutted about like a peacock. Of Avatar: I remember blue people, and thinking that this is about white guilt.
Again, interesting juxtaposition. How did it feel jumping from one film that flaunted its worst features, to another that whitewashed and apologized for any existence of a darker aspect of human nature? Well, I guess I’d say it was like watching a pod of orcas wantonly murder a whale, but after they kill it, they do the Shamu routine. Or maybe it was like a snapshot of John Wayne Gacy in clown makeup, I dunno. It was certainly grotesque. Antichrist certainly has the advantage of making the very things that constrain it a cinematic device. Anyone who’s seen The Five Obstructions and knows about Dogme 95 knows that Von Trier is into that sort of thing. For him, it seems to be a sort of creative bondage, in the S&M sense. Cameron, however, is an utter hedonist, bathing in the juice of excess like some Hollywood Bacchus. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Bacchus isn’t always the best consultant.
“Hey, I got a question for you.”
“Not now, man, I had a wild night.”
That’s pretty much what Avatar was, the hangover from Terminator 2: Judgment Day; it was a painful reminder of what was, honestly, pretty fucking awesome. The Abyss was sweet, too. But Avatar proves, just like the director’s cuts of The Abyss and Aliens, that when given total creative control, James Cameron takes what could be a good idea, and just fucks it up. It seems to me like he could take a lesson from Von Trier in that respect. Maybe that collaboration would produce the most amazing spectacle the world has ever seen. I’d like to see it.
Frankly, this just brings me back to my first point. I’ll probably never see either of these films again. For Antichrist, it’s because I don’t have to, I don’t think I’ll ever forget what happened in that movie or how it made me feel. The images will stick with me forever. I’ve still only seen Lost Highway once too, way back in high school. Maybe I was just too devastated by Antichrist. As for Avatar, I simply have no drive to re-experience that film, nor do I remember anything from it, really. And I’m fine with that. Anything that left me with such a profound sense of “oh” as it did simply isn’t worth it.