Watch Lars Von Trier’s gruelling art-house horror film and Pixar’s latest mini-masterpiece back to back and strange things will happen, none more so than the realisation that they are cut from same blood-stained cloth. Both go straight for the jugular with emotionally wrenching montages, concluding with the tragic death of a loved one. Lost in despair and isolated from the rest of society, the unnamed grieving parents in Antichrist and Karl Fredricksen, the widower in Up, are shown symbolically struggling under the burden of grief, as they cast themselves into the wilderness to confront their fears or die trying. Within this untamed environment, things get very silly indeed, which, considering the emotionally devastating openings, comes as some relief. As Antichrist wants to shock and disturb you, it’s easy to put up your defences and nervously laugh and wince through the graphic portrayals of self-castration, torture and general nastiness. If you then drop your defences and expect Up to be mindless children’s entertainment, this will be the film that eats you alive. What lifts Up above the current glut of computer animated films is its emotionally raw portrayal of mortality and grief, guaranteed to have you sobbing like a child. And whilst Antichrist reaches a surreal cartoon-like state where characters are seemingly murdered one minute and then alive the next, Up travels the opposite direction into the ‘real’ world when a freshly bereaved Karl lashes out at a clumsy construction worker with his walking stick. Instead of seeing stars and then recovering, we are as shocked as Karl to see the unfortunate victim slump to the ground, concussed and bleeding heavily from his head. Pixar continue to produce mature cinema, where mature isn’t a by-word for dull or worthy, and Lars Von Trier proves that despite their pretensions and flaws, his films need to be seen (to be believed). Watch them together and feel the full impact of two of 2009’s most emotionally hard-hitting films.
I double dare you.