I have read so many analyses of this movie, and I am not sure there is a single answer to any question anyone can ask about it. People who hate it and are repulsed by it are still moved by it, because it is so emotional and there is no way to understand it or put it into a safe context.
Here's a sampling of the meaning of the three beggars from different reviewers:
- Grief, pain, and suffering
- the beggars in Russian folklore who, like Christ, offer wisdom and compassion through suffering
- the Three Kings, heralding death in Antichrist the way they herald birth in the Christ story
- the id, ego and superego (subconscious states of the mind from Freud)
- These animals represent, then, the woman's tacit philosophical acceptance of her "evil" sisterhood: so-called "pagan witches" who danced and prayed by moonlight in the forests; who controlled familiars (animals), and who -- their powers joined -- could make the sleet fall.
- Roger Ebert has a saying: “If you have to ask what something symbolizes, it doesn’t.”
Lars von Trier has done many interviews about the film, which was written in the depths of depression and served as his means to survival, forcing him to get out of bed to write ten pages each day. In one interview he says:
"Truthfully, I can only say I was driven to make the film, that these
images came to me and I did not question them. My only defence is:
'Forgive me, for I know not what I do.'" This precipitates a bout of
giggling. "I am really the wrong person to ask what the film means or
why it is as it is," he says finally, "It is a bit like asking the
chicken about the chicken soup."
When asked about where the fox in particular came from, he says:
"From my shamanic journeys," he replies, without batting an eyelid.
"All these animals come from a practice I did 10 years ago. It's a
Brazilian technique where you enter a trance through this very
powerful drumbeat. There are no drugs involved so it is very safe but
very powerful. It's not really that difficult to enter the parallel
The beggars, like everything in the film, may be symbols, but they are symbols of things deep within the psyche of a man who is not analyzing them, merely reporting them and sharing them in his art.