REVIEW: Nymphomaniac Volume I (2013)

No other filmmaker plays with the public and the press like Lars con Trier. Labelled as a 5 hour odyssee about the life of a nymphomaniac, promoted with delicious sneak peek clips on YouTube and celebrated by international film critics with portrays of ‘oooohs’, von Trier’s Nymphomaniac has caused quite an uproard before its international release.

Divided in two viewer friendly parts – Volume I and Volume II – the film will come to the US, the UK and Germany in the run of 2014. The first part will celebrate its premiere tonight at the Berlinale in attendence of the director – well, unless he disappears surprisingly – and a great part of the cast.


If you, like me, expected a 145 minute experimental porn, you might be glad (or disappointed) to hear that Lars von Trier is not the kind of filmmaker that cares about what is expected from him. And even though the sex scenes are plenty and explicit, the film is more about two sides of von Trier’s character himself. There is the edacious insatiable, greedy for bodily sensations portrayed by the nymphomaniac Joe (Charlotte Gainsborg), whose callous self-hatred is met with the intellect of the unjudgemental and knowledge-thirsty Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård).

In a series of flashbacks, Joe tells Seligman about her childhood, the discovery of her sexuality, her first true love and the “bad” things she has done in order to sate her appetite. Joe’s episods are connected by associations to details in Seligman’s flat – a fishing bait, a cake fork, a cassette player. Von Trier uses the systematics of music, experimental montage and analogies in the plot to compose the symphony of his psyche.


Sex, of course, is a crucial aspect of the film, but the camera is never intruding. Our eyes are not reduced to voyeuristic observers. Much more, we are witnesses of lust, satisfaction and disappointment. Berlinale will show the director’s cut, which at 145 minutes counts 27 more minutes than the regular version released in cinemas. According to the producer Louise Vesth, one of the main differences is the explicitness of the sex scenes – “Sex is much more difficult [to show in a film] than violence. I don’t know why, but that’s how it is.” At today’s press conference – at which von Trier wasn’t present, and LaBeouf decided to leave after two questions – she reassured, that von Trier gets the chance to do as he pleases on set, but public opinions had to be considered with distribution.


And while I didn’t get what I expected, I’m glad that Nymphomaniac turned out to be an in-depth discussion of self-awareness and guilt – and another von Trier epic. This man knows what he does!

Watch the trailer here. Volume I will be in UK cinemas from February 22!


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