Tuesday, 3 September 2013

First Glimpse: Nymphomaniac



Those who are familiar with the films of Danish film maker Lars Von Trier might be aware that his works do not shy away from courting controversy. After publically confessing to sympathising with Hitler and persuading the usually fully clothed Kirsten Dunst to shed her clothing and bath naked in the moonlight as Justine in Melancholia, Von Trier has a morbidly magnetic charm that seems to both haunt and hypnotise actors and audiences alike.

Everybody wants to work with him. He adds clout and courage to an actors resume, and yet they all seem equally terrified of what he might expect them to do, understandably...

His latest offering, which is destined to hit screens on the 25th December (appropriately, Christmas day), is entitled 'Nymphomaniac', a title that is bound to entice fans and foes of Von Trier in equal measure.


Von Trier's muse, the musically voiced Charlotte Gainsbourg returns as Joe, a self-confessed nymphomaniac, who is discovered by Stellan Skarsgard (portraying Seligman) badly beaten in an alley way. As he tends to her wounds she furnishes him with the details of her life from birth to present, including all of her erotic, amorous adventures.

But with no more than a provocative title, a smattering of unusual casting choices (Disney's one time darling Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman and Connie Nielsen) and some rousing snippets of scenes, what are we to make of what will prove to be one of the most heralded and possibly derided movies to end the year?


Trier has decided to shoot a soft cut and an explicit version of his story and the rumour mill has already gone into overdrive as to the content, especially with such large names present for ridicule, exposure and critique. Shia is even reported to shoot a scene involving a rather private prolapse collapse...if you know what I mean.

LaBeouf famously declared, "The movie is what you think it is. It is Lars von Trier, making a movie about what he's making. For instance, there's a disclaimer at the top of the script that basically says we're doing it for real. Everything that is illegal, we'll shoot in blurred images. Other than that, everything is happening. ... [V]on Trier's dangerous. He scares me. And I'm only going to work now when I'm terrified".

With the promise of real, rather than simulated sex, LaBeouf's partner has supposedly split with him due to the intimate nature of his new project, and many critics are already claiming that Lars is attempting to make pornography mainstream. It is reported that Lars will digitally manipulate the genitalia of porn stars onto his cast.


But with sex being such a sensitive subject, are people ready to see a film of A-listers exposing themselves not only psychologically but physically also? Is this really art, or is it simply porn for the masses?

The third and final part of his 'Trilogy of Depression', this will no doubt be a bleak and disturbing film, equally evocative and repulsive. Such a clever, inventive and thorough film maker will undoubtedly provide us with a no holds barred account of nymphomania through his eyes, with all his jaded, bitter, grasping and anxious responses to sex coming to the fore. But sex is never just about sex so there will most certainly be some discussion about relationships, promiscuity, validation, modern day culture and the balance of power, dominance and submission. I am sure that Von Trier will have some curveballs for us, because I do not believe his perception of sex will be so black and white.



His voyeuristic approach to startling subject manner leaves audiences reactions and responses instantaneous and uninfluenced. Just how much will audiences dare to see? How much can they look at, in the company of others, without flinching or turning away? As much as I am curious as any cat to see this film, I would be reticent to see it in a full cinema screening.

Von Trier's films are always a harrowing exploration of his psyche; an intelligent but damaged man, Trier's has a bleak, uncompromising view of the world through the prism of his depression. He has tragic views of marriage, nature and now sex. He is impossible to predict or premeditate. As much as we are sex saturated, Von Triers perception will no doubt offer something very different to what mainstream audiences are used to. Even in our desensitised society, he may find a way to shock us. Perhaps that is what drew him to such a project.

Supposedly four hours long, this film will really push movie-goers to the brink. So are you excited to see this film, or disgusted that it was even cleared for production? One thing is for sure. Lars has not only pushed the boat out. He has disappeared beyond the edge of the horizon in it and sailed to a foreign shore. And to think...behind it all lies his indisputable mummy issues (she admitted his real father was not the man he had always assumed him to be). Maybe there will be something about the Oedipus Complex in here...