Flavorwire Exclusive: Read Two Stories Inspired by Lars Von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’

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It’s a commonplace that our lives are mediated through film and television and screens and everything else, but few writers acknowledge this condition by inverting it, by taking control of their mediation through fiction. It’s a relief, then, to come across Our Secret Life in the Movies, a collection of stories by Michael McGriff and J. M. Tyree (published this month by A Strange Object). The setup for the book: the two authors watch countless Criterion Collection films and immediately write two stories in response to each. Yet McGriff and Tyree avoid the hazards of the “clever little book” by virtue of the quality of their fictions, the range of the book’s emotional response, and, yes, the cinephilic nature of their story selections. It all makes for light yet serious and rewarding reading.

In the short stories below, McGriff and Tyree riff on Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, that film you either love to hate or hate to tirelessly defend. Enjoy.

“For Us”

After Antichrist by Lars von Trier

I take it you are leaving me because you finally discovered the case of human ears I keep under the bed. I’m sorry if my little collection appalled you. But, to be fair, I did not ask you to open up that little lock with the final unfamiliar key on the ring.

I know you secretly enjoyed the camaraderie of the simulated gas attacks, the socials after the nuclear terrorism drills. But all that was nothing compared with the ears, and I regret that they disturbed you.

You know what I think? I think you’re using them, the ears, I mean. As an excuse to leave me. If you really loved me, you might have at least asked how I got them, rather than judging me right off the bat. The answer might surprise you.

It’s my job to sell them, door to door. The job was the only way of paying for all those things I bought for the house on the credit card.

The credit card company thugs came in the dead of night. They can do that now. It’s you or her, they said. They threatened to repossess you. Work with us, they said, and you might be able to keep her.

So now you know where I go every morning. With my suitcase full of ears, up the stairs to the doorbell, excuse me, ma’am, but have you considered the advantages?

I don’t mind the ridicule.

But I’m not doing this for myself, Honey Bear. I’m doing it for us.

“Different Fires”

After Antichrist by Lars von Trier

Trish and I started dating during one of those long summers when nearly everyone I knew lost their job, got divorced, and became convinced, through the ramblings of AM radio talk jocks, that the slash piles burning on the logging ridges were actually the ceremonial human sacrifices of Satanic cults.

Trish would only let me undress her if we role-played. It started simply enough—a livestock veterinarian called out to deliver a foal late at night only to find the farmhand’s crippled daughter alone in the barn. But then we started doing things like chasing a fistful of diet pills with gin, emptying the knife drawer onto the bed, and going at it until someone cried for mercy.

One time we did it on the ground beyond the guardrail of the ocean overlook, the sun dropping into the horizon like a battle flare disclosing an enemy’s location. The orange glow over the Pacific could have been a village on fire—there we were, too far away to send for help, but too close not to admire it.