Guess what was reportedly the first buy at the business centre of the Mumbai Film Festival (which is known as MAMI but is actually the MFF)? Lars von Trier’s Antichrist. Meanwhile, on IMDb, Antichrist’s popularity fell by 71%. Sharmila Tagore, who heads up the Indian Censor Board, must feel like she’s just eaten crow. Just months ago, she had said that she didn’t think Indian audiences were mature enough for Antichrist. Recently, she reiterated that there was no way in hell (I paraphrase) that she would let Antichrist have a commercial release. Enlighten Film Society buying the home video rights isn’t a commercial release but hey, the point is that an Indian company decided that there was money to be made with distributing this film. It isn’t entirely surprising. Everyone knows that 99% of the people at film festivals watch foreign films for their uncut sex scenes. But from the sound of things, Antichrist isn’t quite what you turn to when you can’t access Savita Bhabhi. On the other hand, there was uproar and minor violence across Maharashtra because actors in Wake Up Sid said “Bombay” instead of “Mumbai”. So von Trier’s twisted brand of attention-seeking chauvinism that brands the woman as Antichrist and prescribes as a cure some slicing in the nether regions (with a rusty razor) is ok. Colloquialisms, however, are not allowed. Who needs The Onion when you have true facts like this floating around?
When The X-Files started airing on tv, I remember a grand aunt of mine told us very solemnly that watching paranormal activity on television attracts ghosts, ghouls and other supernatural creatures. Since you like watching this stuff on tv, they figure that you want them in your home too. Having spotted a suitable habitat through a family’s taste in tv programmes, they would slither their way in through the smallest crack and the thick glass of the tv screen was no protection against them (I was having good fun imagining ghosts careening towards the screen and going splat like paintball bullets). Fear and horror were an insidious thing, she said.
Not that I’m telling you to stop watching The Twilight Zone and instead start sinking into Gossip Girl, but my batty grand aunt may have been on to something. Because the way Antichrist snuck its tentacles into my world right after its screenings at MFF/ MAMI is just plain weird. Antichrist radiates sex, violence and weirdness. When you survive watching it, you carry a little bit of its discomfort and eeriness with you. Only one person from work had seen it and that was obviously not me, given the fact that merely reading the reviews had made curl into a foetal position and rock myself to sleep. My colleague was considerate towards our delicate, innocent minds and refrained from detailed descriptions. But despite this, within hours of the screening, I noticed that things were a bit alarming at work. The same thing happened with the only other person I know who saw the film and so I offer examples from conversations with these two separate arena.
An innocuous question about a random vegetable ended up as a prolonged exploration of how the Sindhi delicacy sai bhaji “looks like shit. Like that runny stuff when you’ve got a really bad case of loosies, you know the kind that makes you puke and crap constantly.” I’m not going to go on (because I’m the sophisticated sort) but they did. For what seemed like hours. A corny joke about geometry and Halloween (pumpkin pi/e) resulted in a gruesome description of how to slaughter, sorry, carve a pumpkin. And the tour de force: an extended conversation about unicorns, which included the following statements/ comments/ observations:
“A fondle of unicorns? That’s just way too horny.”
“It’s like there should have been unicorns in Monsoon Wedding.”
“I never thought of unicorns as fondlers or fondlees, frankly.” “What despite that horn?”
“There’s a single horn, there’s a mane. Use your imaginations.” “Don’t forget the virgins that people believed could lure the unicorns while you’re using your imagination.”
“There’s a lot of mounting by virgins in the unicorn world.”
“But the horn’s pointy!”
“Did you just turn the unicorn into a sex toy?” “No, no! Look, Wikipedia says that they’re symbols of virility and the horn is obviously phallic. That’s not a toy.”
“You’re ruining My Little Pony for me!”
“The unicorn was actually a rhinoceros.” “It’s still a horn and it’s definitely not prettier for the virgins.”
For the rest of the day, decency was bludgeoned in every conversation, much like Willem Defoe’s genitals are in Antichrist, and I’m blaming Lars von Trier for this. Obviously. I’m happy to report that the effects last about as long as a hangover. Hallelujah.