Run From Your Wife: Exploring The Horror of Marriage In Possession and Antichrist

Gynophobia (Noun)

  1. Dislike or fear of women.
Misogyny (Noun)
  1. Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

There are two: Two horror films, two male directors, two couples, two marriages on the rocks, two Deadly Women to be feared, two men at the mercy of these women. Chaos and Order, Man and Woman. The films in question our Lars Von Trier‘s “Antichrist” (2009) and Andrzej Żuławski (1981), the films may have been made decades apart, but they share such striking similarities that it’s hard not to discuss one without referencing the other. Both films depict an underlying fear of women, seen through the fearful gaze of the male directors and the male characters. The women represent Chaos and disorder, their male partners are on a quest to fix these women and restore order.

The women in these two films have become uncontrollable monsters, unpredictable and deplorable in every sense of the word. “Possession”‘s Anna (Isabelle Adjani) and “Antichrist”‘s She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) are two women who have rejected motherhood and their role as the ‘wife’ and as a result, they have to descend into madness. While in “Antichrist” the husband character called (yes, you’ve guessed it) He (Willem Dafoe) remains in control of the situation (until it all gets too much), in “Possession” Mark (Sam Neill) is the first of the two characters to descend into madness, however, he quickly gets over this as if implying how easily men can regain control.

At the start of both films, there seems to a blissful state of ignorance. The concept of Order (as portrayed by the man) is thrown into array by Chaos (the woman). She and He are depicted in a scene of passionate lovemaking, unaware that their toddler (Nic) is about to fall to his death. It is the death of their child which sets She on a tailspin as she is swallowed up by grief. Her grief sends her mad, but rather than drive her husband away he seems hellbent on a quest to fix her. He is a therapist after all. There seems to be a suspicion towards outside forces attempting to help the couple, perhaps He feels threatened by someone else fixing his wife, indicating a running theme between these two films: Possession of the other.

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Order trying to control Chaos (Antichrist, 2009)

Using psychotherapy He determines that She needs to face her fear of nature. The couple venture isolated cabin in a woods called Eden, where She spent time with Nic the previous summer while writing a thesis on genocide. Rather than She becoming better, her condition worsens. She becomes hysterical when she hears acorns dropping onto the roof of the cabin, fearing the world is ending.

“At the start of both films, there seems to a blissful state of ignorance. The concept of Order (as portrayed by the man) is thrown into array by Chaos (the woman).”

Upon the discovery of her thesis studies, it is revealed that while writing her thesis, she came to believe that all women are inherently evil. Her husband is repulsed by this and reproaches her for imbibing the genocidal beliefs she had originally set out to criticize. Her response to his criticism? She attacks his groin with a large plank of wood and drills a hole through his leg inserting a heavy grindstone so he is unable to walk. It is her who is now seeking possession of the other.

“Possession” also opens with Order (the man) being disrupted by Chaos (the woman). Sam Neill’s Mark returning home to West Berlin from a work-trip. We are introduced to his wife Anna, as she walks in a fast brisk pace to meet him. She doesn’t embrace him, but rather stands there with her arms crossed. Mark puts down his suitcases, picks them back up and drops them back down again. There is tension and awkwardness between the two of them. Anna wants a divorce, but the two of them have a son (Bob) and Mark is determined to make their marriage work.

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Order is met by Chaos (Possession, 1981)

“Possession” was written by Andrzej Żuławski, during his own divorce, and in a stage of depression as he tried to reach a conclusion about what it means to be in love, as well as what it means to fall out of love.”

The couple breaks up, and Mark is left as an unstable shell of a man. We see him in a hotel room, dressed in dirty clothes and unshaven as he calls Anna begging for her to take him back. However, it is Anna who loses all control. Eventually, Anna reaches a stage where her own body seems to reject her, this is shown in the infamous subway tunnel scene. Anna becomes animalistic in nature, unable to contain her own body as she slams into the walls and rolls around on the floor. She expels what she refers to as ‘sister faith’ from her body.

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The Woman is consumed by Chaos (Possession, 1981)

When Anna tries to return home, she struggles to carry out the simplest of domestic tasks like folding a sheet, she stares at her hands in disbelief as if they aren’t her own. Her state of mania is disturbing to watch, but captivating at the same time. Anna seems unable to cope when it comes to being in a church; perhaps her reaction towards the concept of marriage and religion, which has been forced upon her. As much as Anna is lashing out against Mark’s dominance and authority, she is also rebelling against the rules set in place by society.

“Possession” was written by Andrzej Żuławski, during his own divorce, and in a stage of depression as he tried to reach a conclusion about what it means to be in love, as well as what it means to fall out of love. When in love, people tend to want to possess one another. They want to control and have order in their lives. However, Anna and Mark find themselves in a state of Chaos.

In an attempt to regain Control, Anna creates her ideal man in an attempt, to control her husband like she was controlled by Mark throughout their marriage. The film is essentially about the war between the sexes and the destructive nature of love. I read the ending as two destructive people ultimately return to one and another even though it’s clear that they shouldn’t be together. Alone they can function and pass as acceptable human beings in society; but when they are together the world ends.

Interestingly enough, “Antichrist” was also written while the director was in a deep state of depression. In an interview with Electric Sheep, Lars Von Trier states, how the film “was a tool to get out of the depression that I had while I was writing it, so it was a kind of suffering in that sense. Then it links back to some of the themes and images from when I first started making films. “

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Chaos seduces Order (Antichrist, 2009)

Both films address a sense of Order being thrown into chaos by women and their irrational behaviour. As Lars Von Trier stated in his interview,  the fear of chaos “and lack of control and death, that’s the basis of everything… I think female sexuality is frightening even to the female.” It is interesting to breakdown his words, in “Antichrist” She is driven by a need for comfort by sex, trying to get her husband to have sex with her at several points throughout the film. However, her fear of her sexuality is what drives her to self mutilate.

“In attempt to regain Control, Anna creates her ideal man in an attempt, to control her husband like she was controlled by Mark throughout their marriage. The film is essentially about the war between the sexes and the destructive nature of love.”

In “Possession” Anna becomes so repulsed by her lover Heinrich (Heinz Bennent) that she attacks him. Her fear of her sexuality results in a miscarriage and a nervous breakdown; during the miscarriage, she oozed blood and fluids from her orifices. She throws her body around in a subway tunnel in such a manner that she is so far into the realm of chaos that she is a lost cause. Its a phenomenal performance from Isabelle Adjani, and as  Phil Nobile Jr states “she’s a woman coming apart at the seams – laughing, crying, self-mutilating as her extramarital transgression seemingly drives her to the brink of insanity.”

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The innocent suffer at the hands of Chaos and Order (Antichrist, 2009)

In both films, it is the offspring of both couples who suffer the most. In “Antichrist” Nic falls from an open window and dies as a result, and in “Possession” the end shot is Bob drowning in the bathtub, submerging himself in an attempt to hide. This can be read as to how it is the children who end up being the most effective in these dysfunctional households. The true horror isn’t from strange tentacle monsters and speaking Foxes, but how self-destructive people can be towards each other and it is the innocent who ultimately suffer from the fall-out.

 

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