Of Bastard Man and Evil Woman, or, the Horror of Sex

Lorenzo Chiesa


Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009) has often been described as a ‘gothic’, if not straightforwardly ‘horror’ movie. While this claim could easily be challenged with regard to strict genre definitions, it is doubtless the case that the film deals very explicitly with fear, first and foremost the female protagonist’s fear of herself, which is placed at the top of the so-called ‘pyramid of fear’ drawn by her therapist/wanna-be-Saviour partner. My opinion is that Antichrist perfectly displays the horrific effects of the direct embodiment, following a true love encounter, of the symbolic positions which Lacan associated with male and female sexuation. If human sexuality relies on the logic for which there is only one mythical man who is truly whole while every real woman is not wholly whole, what happens when He and She (the nameless protagonists of the movie) fully identify with such irreducible asymmetry between the sexes, its fundamental derailment from nature? They short-circuit the material singularity of a specific human animal with the abstract universality of gender. With the same move, they cannot overcome (or sublimate) the realisation that, in the female protagonist’s own words, woman is ‘evil’ – as long as she feels guilty of what man accuses her – and man is a ‘bastard’ – haunted by the phantasm of unifying purity which woman disrupts. Gynocide as male totalizing extermination of universal difference and genital self-mutilation as female reflexive hatred for the supposedly exceptional man mark the sadomasochistic extremes of the scene of the not-two, the frightening ob-scenity (o-skené), or off-representation, of human sexuality.

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