Imagine – if you can – not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no empathy nor any limiting sense of concern for the well-being of others. Imagine no struggles with shame, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you make. You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame; you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness and selfish ways. Very few, if any, detect this dark side hiding within you. Exploiting others for your needs occurs seamlessly, without them realizing it, and without you giving it a second thought.
And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools. Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs.
Since everyone simply assumes that empathy and conscience are universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are without them is nearly effortless. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience, that they seldom even guess at your condition. In other words, you are completely free of internal restraints, and your unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs of conscience or concern for others, is conveniently invisible to the world. You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences, will most likely remain undiscovered. *
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder with a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. People affected by it often spend a lot of time thinking about achieving power or success, or about their appearance. They often take advantage of the people around them. People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are characterized by their persistent grandiosity, excessive need for admiration, and a personal disdain and lack of empathy for other people. As such, the person with NPD usually displays arrogance and a distorted sense of superiority, and they seek to establish abusive power and control over others. Self-confidence (a strong sense of self) is different from narcissistic personality disorder; people with NPD typically value themselves over others to the extent that they openly disregard the feelings and wishes of others, and expect to be treated as superior, regardless of their actual status or achievements. Moreover, the person with narcissistic personality disorder usually exhibits a fragile ego (self-concept), intolerance of criticism, and a tendency to belittle others in order to validate their own superiority.
Now – imagine having an uncanny ability to feign having a conscience, to exude this je ne sais quoi of pure charisma, charm and seduction that wins over anyone you choose. Imagine being able to lie about anything and everything without thinking twice about what rolls off your tongue.
You can manipulate, con and fool even the most brilliant of minds: romantic interests, psychiatrists, law enforcement officials, judges and juries – none second guess your credibility. Not only do others believe your fantastical lies, somehow you come to believe them also. It’s a curious conundrum: one believing his own fabrications, no matter how radical they may be, but reality is what you insist that it is. You convince yourself that nothing’s your fault, instead its always someone else that’s responsible for your woes. You pass through life without ever feeling remorse or guilt or for all the destruction you cause. Society – and all it has to offer – is yours for the taking, and nothing can stop your insatiable appetite from devouring all it desires.
Imagine everything you’ve just read; so: how will you live your life? What will you do with your huge and secret advantage, and with the corresponding handicap of other people (conscience)? Provided you are not forcibly stopped, you can do anything at all (and you will – until it kills you).
Crazy, and frightening— and real…
…in about five percent of the population.
Narcissists suffer lack empathy for others and for themselves. They are furiously self-destructive while also maintaining an appearance of having it together. They maintain this appearance in a variety of ways: lying, cheating, stealing or victimizing others. They are very good at mimicking human emotions and behaviors but by and large they are psychopaths. If a company has a narcissist for an HR manager, that company is in danger. If your therapist is a narcissist, your mental health is at stake. If your mother is a narcissist, every person you try to marry will be an enemy. If a narcissist falls in love with you, then you become their number one enemy. God forbid you marry a narcissist because they will make your life (and your children’s lives) a living hell.
If you have something a narcissist wants be prepared. They will study you as if you were prey and they were a predator. They may even view you as a threat to something they already have. But once you’ve been chosen as a victim of a narcissist, your complete and total annihilation is what they have in mind. And if they can’t kill you, they will do what they can to smear your reputation or turn your friends, lovers, and supporters against you. They want to wipe you off the face of the Earth and if they can’t do that they will ruin everything in your life so that you’ll want to die. They are counting on you committing suicide.
And what makes narcissists so dangerous is that if you discover that they are a narcissist or even expose them as one they go in for the kill. They are not above lying to judges or police officers to ruin your life. Their perfect appearance must be preserved at all costs. They will get you fired from your job. They will cry rape. They will do whatever they can to stop the truth from coming out. They will get a court order to throw you into a mental hospital. They will drive you crazy so that you will feel you have to go to a mental hospital. They will convince the authorities that you are a danger to yourself and to others. The goal is to have you eliminated. And most times they succeed.
This my sound like science fiction, only it’s 100% grounded in science
Most of us feel mildly guilty if we eat the last piece of cake in the kitchen, let alone what we would feel if we intentionally and methodically set about to hurt another person. Those who have no conscience are a group unto themselves, whether they be homicidal tyrants or merely ruthless social snipers. The presence or absence of conscience is a deep human division, arguably more significant than intelligence, race, or even gender.*
Psychopathy, sometimes considered synonymous with sociopathy, is traditionally defined as a personality disorder characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits. Psychopathy is among the most difficult disorders to spot. The psychopath can appear normal, even charming. Underneath, he lacks conscience and empathy, making him manipulative, volatile and often (but by no means always) criminal.
The term psychopath, sociopath, antisocial personality, and narcissist are often used interchangeably in modern day psychology. Technically, each refers a distinct psychological construct, and each meaning has evolved over time. While subtle differences exist, in the eyes of those whose lives have encountered this type of evil, these terms are often synonymous. For the sake of this blog, these terms may be used interchangeably. Many consider them to fall on a spectrum of evil highlighted below:
The term malignant narcissism is now being used by many as an alternative to narcissist personality disorder and frequently used interchangeably with the term psychopath. It reflects the nastiness, destruction and the draining of life energy imposed by narcissists on their victims. Some psychologists think of pathological narcissism as a spectrum with psychopaths at the worst end, malignant narcissists coming close but a bit moreso in the middle and narcissistic personality disorder as the least severe. Narcissists can abuse others physically and mentally, lie to them, steal from them, take advantage of them, sexually abuse them, and generally walk all over them, without feeling the least bit sorry for their victims. In fact, it often gives them pleasure to dominate, control, manipulate and take from those around them. It’s what drives them. It’s what motivates them to do cruel and sadistic things to others to show their superiority. Malignant narcissists will often befriend their victim before starting to take advantage of them. They then go on to use a variety of mind control methods and techniques to influence the decision making in order to keep their victims ensnared in a web of lies and deceit so that they can continue to take, take and take some more. Malignant narcissists are different from normal human beings in that they have no conscience, no remorse, no guilt, no ability to feel pity or compassion for others.
All with pathological narcissism use charisma and charm to engage others for the sake of manipulation. They tend toward grandiosity – big ideas, big stories, big visions – and they behave like they’re the center of the world, living above the law. They believe they’re immune to consequences, living recklessly by the pleasure principle, never learning from their mistakes. In fact, the way they see it, they don’t make mistakes, it’s everyone else that does. The only time they apologize is in order to get something, not because they feel sorry for their actions. They take credit when things go right and point fingers when things go wrong; projection is an everyday staple of their communication. They’re all self-serving, lack empathy, are egotistical and incapable of seeing things from another point of view.
They don’t consider the impact their actions have on others, exhibiting a sense of entitlement and lack of personal insight into their emotional selves. They’re sexually deviant and promiscuous but use sex for control and subjugation, as well as fuel for their ego. They can skillfully re-craft the past to suit their own needs and they lie pathologically, believing their own lies and insisting that others do, or else. Countless studies have found they can pass polygraphs at ease. They all have the same goals: to fool you, manipulate you, use you as a means to an end, burn through you as their narcissistic supply (energy, validation), and finally discarding you as if you never existed.
Regardless of the term chosen, all follow the same, 3 phased “romantic” trajectory with their victims: idealize, devalue & discard, and if one is unlucky enough, they experience a nightmare smear campaign. They not only leave hearts and minds broken, they assassinate the victim’s credibility in advance so that nobody believes them if they speak out against the abuse. Hoovering may also take place after the silent treatment ends, following a discard, in which the toxic individual sucks his victim in for another round.
Life with such individuals is characterized by outright lies and clever manipulations. It’s devastating for victims to discover that almost none of what they viewed as facts actually were. Often, upon learning the truths which are part of the predator’s actual reality, the victim experiences horrific pain and disbelief. It is not unusual for the victims of to question their sanity and self worth. This is often exacerbated by the predator individual looking the victim in the eye and denying that events they both experienced together happened. Narcopathic individuals may even try to convince victims that it is they who are “crazy.” Due to deception, manipulation and “gas lighting,” many victims are left with damage to their sense of basic trust in other people. Most struggle with emotional intimacy for years afterwards, and some for the rest of their lives. And as mentioned, once an individual is no longer of use to the perpetrator, they’re disposed of in the most vile, inhumane manner imaginable. ***** To many, their lives will never be the same, if they’re even capable of putting the broken pieces back together. Unfortunately it’s all too common, and by the time the victim truly knows what’s taking place, it’s too late, they find themselves so deep that they may never get out.
Unfortunately I know this all too well as it’s exactly what happened to me.
And not just once, but repeatedly. I didn’t think it was possible for worse to come…
…only I was proven wrong; and when I say worse, I’m not exaggerating.
This is my life, this is my story, this is my pain.
May it never be yours.
*some excerpts taken from The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout, PhD
Antichrist is a 2009 English-language Danish experimental art horror film written and directed by Lars von Trier, and starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. It tells the story of a couple who, after the death of their child, retreat to a cabin in the woods where the man experiences strange visions and the woman manifests increasingly violent sexual behavior and sadomasochism. The narrative is divided into a prologue, four chapters and an epilogue. The film was primarily a Danish production and co-produced by companies from six different European countries. It was filmed in Germany and Sweden.
After premiering at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, where Gainsbourg won the festival’s award for Best Actress, the film immediately caused controversy, with critics generally praising the film’s artistic execution but strongly divided regarding its substantive merit. Other awards won by the film include the Robert Award for best Danish film, The Nordic Council Film Prize for best Nordic film and the European Film Award for best cinematography. The film is dedicated to the Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (1932–86).
Antichrist is the first film in von Trier’s unofficially titled “Depression Trilogy”. It was followed in 2011 by Melancholia and then by Nymphomaniac in 2013.
A couple makes passionate love, as their toddler, Nic, climbs up to the bedroom window and falls to his death.
The mother collapses at the funeral, and spends the next month in the hospital crippled with atypical grief. The father, a therapist, is skeptical of the psychiatric care she is receiving and takes it upon himself to treat her personally with psychotherapy. But it is not successful, and so when she reveals that her second greatest fear is nature, he decides to try exposure therapy. They hike to their isolated cabin in a woods called Eden, where she spent time with Nic the previous summer while writing a thesis on gynocide. He encounters a doe which shows no fear of him, and has a stillborn fawn hanging halfway out of her.
Chapter Two: Pain (Chaos Reigns)
During sessions of psychotherapy, she becomes increasingly grief stricken and manic, often demanding forceful sex to escape the pain. The area becomes increasingly sinister to the man, including acorns rapidly pelting the metal roof, awakening with a hand covered in swollen ticks, and finding a self-disemboweling fox that tells him “chaos reigns.”
Antichrist started with the idea of making a horror film. Trier thought it was a good idea to start with a certain genre, and chose horror cinema because “the genre [is such] that you can put a lot of very, very strange images in a horror film”. He had recently seen several contemporary Japanese horror films such as Ring and Dark Water, from which he drew inspiration. Another basic idea came from a documentary Trier saw about the original forests of Europe. In the documentary the forests were portrayed as a place of great pain and suffering as the different species tried to kill and eat each other. Trier was fascinated by the contrast between this and the view of nature as a romantic and peaceful place. Trier said: “At the same time that we hang it on our walls over the fireplace or whatever, it represents pure Hell.” In retrospect he said that he had become unsure whether Antichrist really could be classified as a horror film, because “it’s not so horrific … we didn’t try so hard to do shocks, and that is maybe why it is not a horror film. I took [the horror genre] more as an inspiration, and then this strange story came out of it.”
The title was the first thing that was written for the film. Antichrist was originally scheduled for production in 2005, but its executive producer Peter Aalbæk Jensen accidentally revealed the film’s planned revelation: that earth was created by Satan and not by God. Trier was furious and decided to delay the shoot so he could rewrite the script.
In 2007 Trier announced that he was suffering from depression, and that it was possible that he never would be able to make another film. “I assume that Antichrist will be my next film. But right now I don’t know,” he told the Danish newspaper Politiken. During an early casting attempt, English actors who had come to Copenhagen had to be sent home, while Trier was crying because his poor condition did not allow him to meet them.
The post-depression version of the script was to some extent written as an exercise for Trier, to see if he had recovered enough to be able to work again. Trier has also made references to August Strindberg and his Inferno Crisis in the 1890s, comparing it to his own writing under difficult mental circumstances: “was Antichrist my Inferno Crisis?” Several notable names appear in the credits as having assisted Trier in the writing. Danish writer and directors Per Fly and Nikolaj Arcel are listed as script consultants, and Anders Thomas Jensen as story supervisor. Also credited are researchers dedicated to fields including “misogyny”, “anxiety”, “horror films” and “theology.” Trier himself is a Catholic convert and intensely interested in Christian symbolism and theology.
Production was led by Trier’s Copenhagen-based company Zentropa. Co-producers were Sweden’s Film i Väst, Italy’s Lucky Red and France’s Liberator Productions, Slot Machine and Arte France. The Danish Film Institute contributed with a financial support of $1.5 million and Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Germany with $1.3 million. The total budget was around $11 million.
Props for the more violent scenes were provided by the company Soda ApS, and made in their workshop in Nørrebro, Copenhagen. Plaster casts were made of Willem Dafoe’s leg and the female “porno double’s” sexual organ. A plastic baby with authentic weight was made for the opening sequence. Pictures found using Google Image Search had to serve as models for the stillborn deer, and a nylon stocking was used as caul. The vulva prop was constructed with its inner parts detachable for easy preparation if several takes would be needed. Czech animal trainer Ota Bares, who had collaborated with parts of the crew in the 2005 film Adam’s Apples, was hired early on and given instructions about what tasks the animals must be able to perform. The fox, for example, was taught to open its mouth on a given command to simulate speaking movements.
To get into the right mood before filming started, both Dafoe and Gainsbourg were shown Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror from 1975. Dafoe was also shown Trier’s own 1998 film The Idiots, and Gainsbourg The Night Porter to study Charlotte Rampling’s character. Dafoe also met therapists working with cognitive behavioral therapy as well as being present at actual sessions of exposure therapy and studying material on the topic. Trier himself is highly skeptical of psychotherapy.
Filming took 40 days to finish, from 20 August to the end of September 2008. The film was shot in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Locations were used in Rhein-Sieg-Kreis, part of the Cologne region, and Wuppertal. It was the first film by Trier to be entirely filmed in Germany. The fictional setting of the film however is near Seattle, USA. The film was shot on digital video, primarily using Red One cameras in 4K resolution. The slow motion sequences were shot with a Phantom V4 in 1,000 frames per second. Filming techniques involved dollys, hand-held camerawork and computer-programmed “motion control”, of which the team had previous experience from Trier’s 2006 film The Boss of It All. One shot, where the couple is copulating under a tree, was particularly difficult since the camera would switch from being hand-held to motion controlled in the middle of the take.
Trier had not recovered completely from his depression when filming started. He repeatedly excused himself to the actors for being in the mental condition he was, and was not able to operate the camera as he usually does, which made him very frustrated. “The script was filmed and finished without much enthusiasm, made as it was using about half of my physical and intellectual capacity,” the director said in an interview.
Post-production was primarily located in Warsaw, Poland, and Gothenburg, Sweden. Over the time of two months, the Poles contributed with about 4,000 hours of work and the Swedes 500. The film features 80 shots with computer-generated imagery, provided by the Polish company Platige Image. Most of these shots consist of digitally removed details such as the collar and leash used to lead the deer, but some were more complicated. The scene where the fox utters the words “chaos reigns” was particularly difficult to make. The mouth movements had to be entirely computer-generated in order to synchronise with the sound. The scene in Chapter Three during which the couple makes love and numerous hands emerge from the roots of a tree was subsequently adapted into the principal promotional art for the film.
The aria “Lascia ch’io pianga” from Handel’s opera Rinaldo is used as the film’s main musical theme. The aria has previously been used in other films such as Farinelli, a 1994 biographical film about the castrato singer Farinelli, and was used again by von Trier in Nymphomaniac during a scene referencing the sequence showing Nic approaching the open window. The eight-track soundtrack features both versions of “Lascia ch’io pianga” and selected extracts of the “score” created by sound designer Kristian Eidnes Andersen.
The film premiered during the Competition portion of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival to a polarized response from the audience. The film prompted several walk outs and at least four people fainted during the preview due to the film’s explicit violence. At the press conference following the screening, Trier was asked by a journalist from the Daily Mail to justify why he made the film, to which the director responded that he found the question strange since he considered the audience as his guests, “not the other way around.” He then claimed to be the best director in the world. Charlotte Gainsbourg won the Cannes Film Festival’s award for Best Actress. The ecumenical jury at the Cannes festival gave the film a special “anti-award” and declared the film to be “the most misogynist movie from the self-proclaimed biggest director in the world”. Cannes festival director Thierry Frémaux responded that this was a “ridiculous decision that borders on a call for censorship” and that it was “scandalous coming from an ‘ecumenical’ jury”. The “talking fox” was nominated for the Palm Dog, but lost to Dug from Up.
Two versions were available for buyers at the Cannes film market, nicknamed the “Catholic” and “Protestant” versions, where the former had some of the most explicit scenes removed while the latter was uncut. The uncut version was released theatrically to a general audience on 20 May 2009 in Denmark. It was acquired for British distribution by Artificial Eye and American by IFC Films.
In both Ireland and the United Kingdom, Antichrist was released uncut with an 18 certificate. The British Advertising Standards Authority received seven complaints about the film poster, which was based on the original poster and shows the couple as they are having sexual intercourse. The organization decided to approve the poster, finding it to not be pornographic since its “dark tone” made it “unlikely to cause sexual excitement”. An alternative poster, featuring only quotes from reviews and no image at all, was used in outdoor venues and as an alternative for publishers who desired it.
The film received a limited theatrical run in Australia followed by a basic DVD release in early 2010. Sale of the DVD was strictly limited in South Australia due to new laws that place restrictions on films with an R18+ classification. A notable feature of the Australian release was the creation of a critically acclaimed poster that made prominent use of a pair of rusty scissors that had the actor’s faces fused into the handles. The poster received much international coverage at the end of 2009 and was used as the local DVD cover.
This film was released on DVD and Blu-ray as part of The Criterion Collection on 9 November 2010. The film was not submitted to the MPAA because the filmmakers feared that it would receive an NC-17 rating for its graphic violence.