As ever, provocateur Lars von Trier is stirring strong emotions on the Croisette. Depending on which newspapers you read, his new Competition title Antichrist is either a six-star special or a “big fat art film fart”.

“Antichrist is is a grotesque masterpiece… a provocative piece that will re-establish Lars Von Trier as a cult figure and at the same time he’ll be stringed up on the highest cross in the film industry for being the most pompous ego tripper in the world,” Kim Skotte, not usually a fan of Von Trier, wrote in leading Danish daily, Politiken.

The trade press in Cannes was far harsher, reacting with high-minded disgust at what it considered Von Trier’s shock tactics. “It’s built into the genetics of the film to be provocative. We made it for that reason,” Trier’s business partner Peter Aalbaek Jensen told ScreenDaily. “You need your antagonists.”

The question now is how the wildly polarised Cannes reception will be regarded by distributors. US buyers will be seeing the film at market screenings today.

Sales agent TrustNordisk, which reports strong US interest in Antichrist, seems philosophical about the bile coming Trier’s way. “We have been sure since day one that the film will divide people into two camps. People will either love it or hate,” TrustNordisk’s head of sales Susan Wendt commented. 

Distributors who’ve pre-bought the film seem happy enough. “Nobody has come back and said this is terrible.” 

Trier remained calm in the storm. He told the Cannes press conference: “I don’t believe in thinking about an audience when I make a film.”

“I am the best film director in the world,” he said playfully, adding: “All the others are over-rated, so that’s quite simple.”