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Shock Art: Disturbing With or Without Cause

Antichrist, the film from director Lars von Trier (pictured here), has left the critics and screeners at Cannes shocked. About a grieving couple, Antichrist features scenes of sexual mutilation, horrific gore, and a child's accidental death. Many in the audience gasped, whiles others booed or walked out. And some critics wondered why the "offensive" film was allowed to air at the famous festival.

It may be futile to get up in arms about an offensive piece of art, since what constitutes art or offensiveness are highly subjective. Still, some consider gratuitously graphic films like Antichrist cultural pollution rather than valuable provocation because those critics think the filmmaker is using sensationalism for no other apparent reason than to gain attention and publicity.

As for the director, Von Trier, director of the beautiful film Breaking the Waves, refuses to explain the value behind the disturbing scenes, saying only that he made the film as a "kind of therapy" during his recent battle with depression. He said: "I don't think about the audience when I make a film. I don't care. I make films for myself."

Since the value of art is in the eye of the beholder, tell me: do you see a purpose for art that shocks the audience?

To see a trailer of the movie,



Jazz-Z Jazz-Z 8 years
I have to say I do enjoy your comments because you are obviously intelligent. I'm sure many who murder and rape don't need to watch much television because they are too busy being entertained trying to validate their own rapes as children by raping and torturing others, but there have been several murders commited by others often under the age of 17 who got the idea from movies. I'm sure there are many people who can watch these movies and aren't compelled to go out and torture or kill people, but I wonder how many people have to be killed by the former to validate a need to keep this form of "art" from being made? How can exploring this type of art be nourishing to our minds as a society?
Phil Phil 8 years
Those who choose to express their sexuality through S&M should not be associated with those who murder and rape. And no, those who love "torture porn" are not typically also people who need to express their sexuality through S&M. I'm interested to heard why you seem to believe otherwise, as this would make for an interesting, perhaps illuminating discussion. I can't back this up with empirical evidence, but I'm willing to bet that the majority of those who have murdered and raped probably don't watch much "torture porn," or probably don't prefer to have sex that includes the use of cricket paddles, riding crops or clothes pins.
Jazz-Z Jazz-Z 8 years
"There's an entire subculture of people who love such films that would be considered "torture porn" Phil, your point is taken...but would that be the same "entire subculture of people" who are into sadomasochism, murder and rape. I am so glad there is an "art" in film that can appeal to their salacious appetites.
Pistil Pistil 8 years
I can't say much about a film I haven't seen, but I would consider Cosmo to be more of a cultural pollutant and more detrimental to my mental health than any horror film I've ever seen. I'm not a psychopath. It's not a slasher flick. Completely different type of horror. My only concern about films that shock is if that's all it does. I'd rather watch something that stirs something in me psychologically, and not just my stomach.
kea718 kea718 8 years
Wow.... That looks freaking AWESOME!!!!
heatherhas heatherhas 8 years
Pass. But I don't even care for slasher flicks. Just don't do anything for me.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I heard a review of this on NPR the other day that actually said that it wasn't the sort of gratuitous torture porn that the reviewer saw in horror films like Hostel, but that, despite being extremely hard to watch in places, the violence actually had a point.
kurniakasih kurniakasih 8 years
I have to watch first to decide...but knowing von trier's work, I hope it's not going to be so depressing (sorry for saying that die-hard von trier's fans. I'm actually a fan of some of his works, but most of his actually inspire the feeling of depression :p ) I think I can stomach it, and hub will definitely want to check it out since it's like rated NC-17 and a horror flick too.
Phil Phil 8 years
Dario Argento has made a name for himself, making loads of films that would be considered "torture porn." However, his daughter, Asia Argento, who was surely exposed to many of her father's movies and those of his horror contemporaries, turned out pretty normal, non-sociopathic. There's an entire subculture of people who love such films that would be considered "torture porn" (think Jason Bateman and Ellen Page's characters in Juno), but none of them have ever seen such films and have gone out into the world enacting the killings depicted in Tenebrae or Suspiria. The Dahmers and Geins and many of the perverse murderers of the world and of the past are the way they are not because of the influence of mass media, but because of their mental illnesses. I'm skeptical that their compellence toward inflicting their sadism upon society would have been exacerbated by seeing Von Trier's film. And the auteur shouldn't be treated as a sociopath simply because he chooses to depict such a subject that would be perceived as "torture porn." Imagine all the great artists that would have been silenced because of their depictions of characters and situations on the nadir of sanity--we would be void of such great works from the likes of the Marquise de Sade, of many of the works of Edgar Allan Poe (imagine what sort of conclusions a sociopathic misnterpretation of "Ligea" could be made); any subject considered deleterious to the commonweal could be barred from public consideration, yet such a censure would do nothing for the existence of sin; the actual cause of perversity remains unaddressed. Long before film and Marilyn Manson and Grand Theft Auto people murdered and acted with a perversity that would pale--or at least match--the most graphic scenes of such a film as Von Trier's. Such films don't glorify perversity (at least in most cases, and, I think, for the case of Antichrist), but rather expose it and explore it much in the way the perversity of Hannibal Lecter has been explored. Of course, much of what I've stated is with an obscured perspective toward the actual Antichrist film since I haven't actually seen it, and only have conceptions based on the chatter abound Cannes. And fascinating chatter it is. Tood McCarthy's Variety post about Antichrist makes the film sound disjointed and poorly contrived, but Roger Ebert's brief blurb about the film on his journal ( depicts the film with subtly more gusto than the initial reactions of the press would lead, and NYTimes' Manolah Dargis even seems to have liked the film ( The only thing I can say for sure about Antichrist is that I can't wait to see it!
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 8 years
Variety's take on the movie: "Lars von Trier cuts a big fat art-film fart with Antichrist."
Jazz-Z Jazz-Z 8 years
I'm also a fan of Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Dafoe, and based on the preview it does look interesting, but if there is torture porn and mutiliation involved I see that as food for a sociopathic society. When this film promotes more of its kind eventually it will no longer be shocking and will only feed the sick mind to a point where experiencing such *IN* fantasy will no longer be enough. Lars von Trier is obviously trying to live out his own demented fantasies and then calling it art. If he were only doing it for himself I guess he wouldn't be entering it into festivals. How sad. Just think of the movies Jeffrey Dahmer could have collaborated with him on. Do we really need to glorify the ideas of a perverted sick mind?
hithatsmybike hithatsmybike 8 years
yikes. well I probably wouldn't see it myself (though that preview does make it look interesting) but I don't see anything wrong with it.. so long as viewers get fair warning so they can decide whether or not they can stomach it!
Phil Phil 8 years
hmm...fistly about Antichrist. I'm already sold because of Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe. I think it warrants a viewing. The fact that this art has provoked such a uniformly appalled response signifies moreso the film's ability to evoke a strong reaction, rather than an indication of whether the film is able to convey what it's meant to convey. The fact that those at Cannes are so affected by the content of the film also signifies to me that it's likely that many of the reviews will be moreso reactionary than critical of the work. Of all the things I've read about Von Trier's film, I've seen nothing that actually examines the film critically, and it seems the films has an ambiguity about it that begs honest consideration amidst eyes of minds seeing red. So shock, to me is totally fine as long it conveys a message worthy of the shock, that is, with a fine articulation that is able to contextualize the scenes of deep objection. The fact that the context of the film is still so ambiguous tells me that either Von Trier, an extremely capable auteur, has either created a work of incoherent perversity and self-indulgence, or has created a film most are too affected to be able to view objectively, and are thus critically compromised.
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 8 years
I spared you some of the details, hithatsmybike. The film is being called "torture porn" and some of the scenes are supposed to be disgusting.
hithatsmybike hithatsmybike 8 years
It looks like a horror movie, so isn't shock what they're going for?
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