The organisers of the New Zealand International Film Festival hope audiences will make up their own minds about a film so horrific, it caused audience members at Cannes to faint.

The hugely controversial Anti-Christ is the work of director Lars Von Trier, who says making the film provided him with therapy after two years of depression.

It stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a couple who retreat to their property in the woods to deal with the loss of their only child. They then encounter terrifying experiences.

Festival Programmer Sandra Reid was present at the world premiere in Cannes.

She says it is the director's most extreme and controversial work to date, which New Zealanders have a chance to make up their own minds about.

For film-lovers with less extreme tastes, there is huge variety of films on offer.

Jane Campion's Bright Star will open the festival in Auckland on Thursday.