Last Friday (12.13) Variety‘s Peter Debruge saw the abridged, two-part, four-hour version of Lars von Trier‘s Nymphomaniac at Westwood’s Regent. Westwood! Debruge’s review is generally positive, explaining in various ways his view that Von Trier’s film is “a better fit for cinephiles than the raincoat crowd” — a point conveyed months ago by costar Stellan Skarsgard in an interview.
The two-parter opens in Europe on 12.25 and in the U.S. via Magnolia on 3.21 and 4.18.
“With his sexually explicit, four-hour magnum opus, enfant terrible Lars von Trier re-emerges as its dirty-old-man terrible, delivering a dense, career-encompassing work designed to shock, provoke and ultimately enlighten a public he considers altogether too prudish,” Debruge begins.
“Racy subject aside, the film provides a good-humored yet serious-minded look at sexual self-liberation, thick with references to art, music, religion and literature, even as it pushes the envelope with footage of acts previously relegated to the sphere of pornography. [But] the only arousal von Trier intends is of the intellectual variety.
“In the nearly two decades since von Trier unveiled the Dogma 95 manifesto, his work has become increasingly provocative, from integrating real sex in The Idiots to figuratively shaking his fist at God with Antichrist. If Nymphomaniac feels somewhat tame by comparison, that is surely a reflection of the compromised edit, considering the controversial elements Jo experiments with in the second half: sadomasochism, pedophilia, homosexuality and, most outrageously, a mixed-race three-way.
“As an onscreen disclaimer makes clear from the outset, ‘This film is an abridged and censored version‘ of von Trier’s bigger, longer and uncut edit, which is said to run five-and-a-half hours.
“Still, if von Trier means to challenge the depiction of sex onscreen, the truth of the matter is that people can find far more explicit imagery with a simple Google search. And when it comes to the potency of ideas, his script doesn’t uncover anything that wasn’t previously addressed by Anais Nin, Henry Miller or the Marquis de Sade.
“The film aims to overcome millennia of shame and judgment toward sexual behavior, though von Trier is hardly the first crusader on this front, and such landmark art films as Belle de Jour and Romance delve far deeper into the impulses behind aberrant sex.”