Nasty Nostalgia

Yesterday, Mail art critic Christopher Hart launched an attack on the new Lars Von Trier film Antichrist (above), which is currently shocking, boring and mystifying UK cinema audiences in equal measure with its explicit sex, baffling visual metaphors, genital mutilation and fine acting from Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. "What," Hart demands to know in his headline, "does it takes for a film to get banned these days?".

So far, so Mail. Then comes the punchline: Hart hasn't actually seen Antichrist, and has no intention of doing so. Which immediately brings to mind Mary Whitehouse and various other misguided crusaders, who didn't watch most of the early '80s works they were condemning.

Thankfully, we now live in more enlightened times, in which the British Board of Film Classification take a far more level-headed, realistic approach. Yet back then, such moral panic, fuelled by The Daily Mail and their 'Ban Video Sadism Now' headline, led to police raids on video-rental shops, the widespread confiscation of various films - and, in the worst case, an 18-month jail sentence for one distributor of the so-called video-nasty Nightmares In A Damaged Brain. Jailed, for distributing a film! I wrote an article about the video nasty phenomenon here, a few years back, if you're intrigued and/or need reminding.

Feast your eyes on Christopher Hart's online article here. There is no finer comedy. I'm tempted to believe he's actually Christopher Morris.

I contributed a comment to The Mail's "debate", but it clearly didn't survive "moderation". So here it is again:

Dear Mr Hart,

I haven't read your article, and neither shall I. However, your name, position as an art critic and affiliation with The Mail are more than enough to tell me that it will contain snobbery, the word 'amoral' and ill-informed hysteria which might irreparably scar my brain. Thank you for the warm rush of '80s witch-hunt nostalgia, if only for the duration of your no-doubt ludicrous article.


redthing said...

Excellent, JA. All I could think when reading that ludicrous piece of so-called 'journalism' was that I must have slipped into a rift in the space/time continuum...

Laura Anderson said...

Amazing stuff, isn't it? Does exactly what you want the Mail to do. Made my blood boil reading it - notice he also spoils the ending of the film for anyone immoral enough to want to go see it.

There was another article on the Mail website about the 'disgusting' things written for children and young adults, in which Jaqueline Wilson (among many, many other authors) was slammed for writing about single parents and divorce.

The country is in ruin, I tell you!

Eleanor said...

Laura, thanks for the heads-up about the spoiler. I shall avoid reading the article until after I've seen the film. :)

Chris Regan said...

You'd think that in the post-video-nasty era 'critics' would have learned that all articles like this do is make people want to see the film more.

Elinor said...

As someone who reviews films I'm shocked by the number of other reviewers who fall asleep during the screening. No danger of that during Antichrist, mind you, but not even turning up? For shame... The Mail is a rabble-rousing rag and that's about all you can say.

Jon Peacey said...

Just as a matter of interest have you just censored Hart's Wikipedia article... which I just checked and found completely blank- done just 40 minutes after your post!!! ;)

Anyway, I thought I was having a touch of deja-vu as an article under a very similar title appeared in the Sunday Times a week or so ago. However, on closer inspection Bryan Appleyard's commentary is clearly far more level-headed. It does contain the dread spoilers- but I'm surprised anybody into film doesn't know what's in Antichrist.

What nobody mentions is that Von Trier is a strict Catholic. It would be surprising to find him ensconced in the deeply amoral camp... of course, that all depends on what you think of Catholicism!

Jon Peacey said...

On a related note, I found this amusing: Appleyard translates some smart-ass from The Gruniad discussing Antichrist.

Jason Arnopp said...

In Hart's defence re: the ending-spoiler, it's a completely inexplicable climax anyway.

Incidentally, if anyone's being put off seeing Antichrist because of the talk of "extreme torture", then don't be. Because there isn't any. For some unfathomable reason, the words "extreme torture" have been included in the circulated press release. There's nastiness, sure, but no extreme torture.