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Lars Von Triers Coitus Interruptus

Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 is unsatisfying in more ways than one.

Published: February 19, 2014 (Issue # 1798)



  • Sophie Kennedy Clark, left, and Stacy Marten in Lars von Triers Nymphomaniac Vol. 1.
    Photo: Christian Geisnaes / Zentropa

At one point in Lars Von Triers new film Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 Charlotte Gainsbourgs character Joe says, We are all just waiting for permission to die. If Von Triers previous film Melancholia embraced the liberating ecstasy of total annihilation, Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 is the sad, seedy comedown after the rapture fails to materialize. Its no wonder the character longs for the grave.

Before the film, a disclaimer informing the audience that the movie has been censored with the approval, but not the participation, of the director appears on screen. The films producers have said that this was a commercial decision to allow the film access to more markets. With von Triers radio silence after his Nazi remarks during the promotion of his last film, who is to know exactly what to make of this. While his producers have been forthcoming on the subject, and both versions of the film have been edited by the same editor who worked on Melancholia, the move reeks of cowardice and avarice.

The film begins with an image of oily looking water running down a brick wall onto the lid of a trashcan. This is followed by a shot of a woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe) lying unconscious nearby. That the first two things to detach themselves from the gritty surroundings are the trashcan and the main protagonist says a lot about the way Von Trier wants us to see the character. A Puritan at heart, the director casts Joe in the role of the redeemable harlot rescued from the streets.

The story is told in flashback as Joe narrates her erotic adventures to a voyeuristic fisherman named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) who plays the voice of indulgent rationalism. Her sexual awakening, trawling train carriages for sex and the logistical problems of trying to schedule up to ten trysts a night are all illustrated with sarcastic humor and unsimulated sex. Shuttling between Seligmans dreary room and the equally abject spaces Joe inhabits in her recollections, the film is a bleak portrait of the uses of lust and a rather tired, sensationalist rehashing of arguments about sexual liberation.

Taking literary convention as its cue, the first two-hour volume consists of five chapters and is a sort of Delta of Venus Anaïs Nins collection of short stories written for a collector of erotica which deals with omnivorous sexuality. With Gainsbourg as a scratchy-voiced Scheherazade and Skarsgard as the intellectual collector, or the lucky one as he remarks about halfway through the first part of the film, Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 plays more like theater than cinema.

While von Trier nods to filmmakers Ingmar Bergman, Peter Greenaway and Stanley Kubrick through various visual and audio cues, his film focus on the voyeuristic and pornographic tendencies of the medium and claustrophobic psychological spaces.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of todays seminar is Grammar Practice.


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at Professional Growth, a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmChams Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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