The world premiere of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist this year at the Cannes film festival is now the stuff of legends. Critics who had attended this first ever screening were disgusted, shocked, terrified, angry, excited, bewildered but most importantly…buzzing. This very buzz on the internet the day of release was splitting people into two sides. Those who boasted about how they supported more edgy cinema welcomely hollered “BRING IT ON!”. Those whose favorite movies consist of the filmographies of Tim Burton and Ron Howard sat back and shook their heads in disgust. Those in the middle? The ones who can enjoy both Werner Herzog and Preston Sturges? They were just confused about what side to support. But now as the film has screened more and now finally awaits its theatrical exhibition, it comes the time to seriously examine it. What made Lars von Trier make this particular film? His excuse was that this film was the answer to his years of depression. But are talking foxes, smashed genitals, cut-off clitorises and satires of Baz Luhrman really an answer to depression? Well, it’s probably just as much of a response as jerking off a horse, wearing the skin of a dead deer, licking a compound fracture and wearing a cheese helmet.
How about we start with the first, most direct things about each films ; the respective titles. What does “Antichrist” mean? What does “Freddy Got Fingered” mean? I wasn’t initially sure why “Antichrist” was the title of von Trier’s film, but it hit me later. My initial thought was because it concerned a lot of biblical ideas. But that’s “not quite why” is what I thought. Was the child of the couple who dies at the beginning supposed to be the “Antichrist”? But no, the title is there for a simple reason. Can you guess what it is? It grabs your attention. It stands out. It’s somewhat shocking. If it was simply titled “Couple in the Woods”, then who would give a fuck? I’m sure most people would’ve skipped that infamous screening if that was the title of the film. And “Freddy Got Fingered”? Same thing. About halfway through Green’s film, the main character accuses his father of fingering his brother, Freddy. But this is an extremely minor plot point in the movie. So why title it that? Because “Freddy Got Fingered” stands out more than “Green Machine”. Both Lars von Trier and Tom Green are trying to attract people to see their films.
Now let’s confront the shock value of both films. This is where this becomes important. As much as Antichrist was panned for its gross-out elements, there were still just as many critics who said that it was part of the point of the movie. But Freddy Got Fingered? Pretty much universally panned. Now I hate the argument “You’d like it if ___ directed it”. But it completely applies to this. You can give me the debate that Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character cutting off her own clitoris and masturbating naked in the woods are scenes that represent the film’s theme of misogyny. But does Tom Green swinging around a baby on its umbilical cord not represent his character’s insanity and the film’s theme of parental relationships? If von Trier does it, it’s “art” and makes sense because he’s the guy who did Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark. But no, it doesn’t apply for Green because he had a show on MTV. Give me a fucking break. I can understand the argument that Green’s image is in someways more extreme, mean-spirited and inappropriately played for laughs. But does that not just represent the tone of Green’s film? A performance art nightmare in which the world is a cruel, cartoonish place that intends to break you down. I think that’s completely as relevant as von Trier’s view of the world in Antichrist as one created by the devil instead of God. But now we come to maybe what has become the most famous “weird” moment of Antichrist. The talking fox that bellows “Chaos reigns”. This scene is so completely random in the film that I can understand laughter. And you know what? That’s the point of that scene. To make you laugh. Can you seriously see Lars von Trier, sitting as his computer and with a straight face typing “Fox : Chaos reigns!”. And can you imagine Tom Green sitting at his computer and with a straight face typing “Daddy would you like some sausage?”. Yes, they both represent themes of the film. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be funny. Green is spoofing the genre he is working in by having the typical comedy set-up of “wacky guy moving to Hollywood to achieve his dreams”. Von Trier is spoofing the genre he is working in by having the typical psychological horror tropes of creepy music and disturbing noises. They are both working on the same idea of spoofing yet embracing.
Now we shall confront what drove each of these men to make their movies. I think the answer of “depression” applies to both. While it would be normal to assume this for von Trier, seeing as many of his movies border on the edge of misery porn, why would it apply for Green? The guy at one point was America’s favorite goof-ball. But everytime I see Green, I sense an undercurrent of sadness. It is said that his own differences with his father served as the basis of the father/son conflict in Freddy Got Fingered. Can’t you just see that? A guy who strives for his father’s attention so much that he has surgery for his cancer on live television? It it also said that while married to Drew Barrymore he was alienated by almost all her Hollywood friends. This is a guy who’s always been striving for acceptance but can’t fit in. And Freddy Got Fingered feels like the complete representation of all of this. But here comes the key element. Green is making his film both as a response to his depression and as a statement to his dedicated fanbase that actually made him a superstar. This message being : “You love me? You really love me? WELL SEE HOW FAR I CAN GO?”. And for von Trier, he is making his film as a response to his depression and as a statement to his dedicated fanbase that made him an arthouse darling. The message being : “You love me? You really love me? WELL SEE HOW FAR I CAN GO?”. Green and von Trier’s films each work on two separate levels. One being “this is a statement about my life” and the other being “this is a statement about my fans”.