Volume 1 theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lars von Trier|
|Produced by||Marie Cecilie Gade
|Written by||Lars von Trier|
Sophie Kennedy Clark
|Cinematography||Manuel Alberto Claro|
|Edited by||Volume I:
Molly Marlene Stensgaard
Les Films du Losange
|Running time||Volume I:
145 minutes (Uncut)
180 minutes (Uncut)
325 minutes (Uncut)
($2.35 million per film)
|Box office||Volume I:
Nymphomaniac (stylized in advertising as NYMPH()MANIAC) is a 2013 two-part drama art film written and directed by Lars von Trier. The film stars Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Connie Nielsen, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman, and Willem Dafoe. The film was originally supposed to be only one movie, but because of its four-hour length Lars von Trier made the decision to split the project into two separate films. Nymphomaniac was an international co-production of Denmark, Belgium, France, and Germany.
The world premiere of the uncut version of "Volume I" of the original five-and-half-hour-long version occurred on 16 February 2014 at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival. The world premiere of the uncut version of "Volume II" will debut at 2014's Venice Film Festival. The film has been nominated for the 2014 Nordic Council Film Prize.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (July 2014)|
On a cold winter's evening, the old, charming bachelor Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) finds the self-diagnosed nymphomaniac, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) beaten up in an alleyway. He brings her home to his flat where he tends to her wounds while asking her about her life. He listens intently as Joe, over the next eight chapters, recounts the lustful story of her highly erotic life from infancy to the age of 50. Seligman, a widely read man, connects and analyzes Joe's stories with what he has read about.
1. "The Compleat Angler"
Inspired by a fly fishing hook in the wall behind her and Seligman's love of Izaak Walton's book The Compleat Angler, Joe opens her story by talking about her developing an ongoing fascination with her genitalia, exploring various childlike ways to find stimulation from the age of 2. Her father (Christian Slater) is a doctor whom she loves dearly while her mother (Connie Nielsen) is, as Joe describes her, “a cold bitch” with arguable apathy towards her family. Joe as a child spends all of her time with her father, learning about the various trees he loves, especially the ash tree. As a young woman (Stacy Martin), she loses her virginity to Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf), a random guy whom she had no relationship with. This first encounter, which ends with Jerôme casually leaving her to fix his motorcycle, leaves her disappointed, while Seligman explains the number of times Jerôme penetrated her, three times vaginally and five anally, is an allegory for the Fibonacci sequence. Years later, accompanied by her best friend B (Sophie Kennedy Clark), Joe engages with multiple people sexually on a train carriage. After having sex in the toilet with many of the men she comes across, she sexually assaults one of them who had denied her advances. The whole purpose of such a sex train-trip, was no other than winning a bet which had a candy bag as a prize.
Over rugelach and a discussion over the lack of masculinity of men using cake forks to eat pastry, Joe talks about her first experiences with actual love, something she dismisses as “lust with jealousy added.” Joe takes on more lovers as she, B and several friends create a club, "The Little Flock," dedicated to liberating themselves from the prospect of love, though Joe leaves after the other members start developing more serious relationships with their lovers. As she gets older and finds work as a secretary at a printing company after dropping out of medical school, her first employer is none other than Jerôme. Whilst sexual intentions are clearly on his mind, she finds herself avoiding his advances and sleeping with other co-workers, frustrating him. When Joe finally realizes she has developed feelings for Jerôme, she writes him a letter. However, she is too late as he has left along with his uncle's secretary Liz. She is immediately fired by his uncle (Jesper Christensen), the actual owner of the company, for her lack of experience and goes back to indulging her nymphomania, despite a yearning for Jerôme.
3. "Mrs. H"
On one occasion with one of her lovers, H (Hugo Speer), she causes conflict that makes him leave his wife for her. The distressed Mrs. H (Uma Thurman) enters her house and attempts to demonize them in front of her children, though Joe states in the present that this barely affected her. The situation then becomes more awkward as Joe's next lover, A (Cyron Melville), arrives at the house and finds himself in the middle of Mrs. H's mental breakdown. The family finally leaves, but not before Mrs. H chastises Joe for her lifestyle, slaps her now ex-husband and leaves the apartment screaming.
Seligman’s talk about Edgar Allan Poe and his death from delirium tremens reminds Joe of the last time she saw her father. She is the only one to visit him in the hospital as he dies of cancer. Joe’s father asks her not to slander her mother, who is afraid of hospitals, for not being by his side, explaining they said their goodbyes. Joe is a firsthand witness as her father deteriorates into fits of violent spasms and screaming for his wife, forcing the hospital staff to keep him restrained. To take her mind off her father’s suffering, Joe sleeps with several people at the hospital. When her father finally dies, Joe lubricates in front of the body and becomes depressed.
5. "The Little Organ School"
After Seligman explains how he feels Bach perfected polyphony, Joe uses his example to talk about two lovers leading up to her "cantus firmus." The "bass voice," F (Nicolas Bro) is a tender, but predictable man who puts her sexual needs about his own. The "second voice," G (Christian Gade Bjerrum), thrills Joe because of his animalistic control of her in bed. Just before the end, after going on one of her regular walks, Jerôme finds her after separating from Liz, a coincidence Seligman finds preposterous, and they embrace. As the two engage in passionate sex - set to Joe's experiences with Jerôme, F and G - Joe becomes distraught after finding that she can no longer 'feel anything'.
Joe reminisces about a field trip as a young girl that suggests she had a vision of Valeria Messalina and the Whore of Babylon looking at her as she levitates and spontaneously has her first orgasm. She also becomes annoyed with Seligman, accusing him of overlooking the severity of her lost sexuality to focus on the allegorical before realizing he can't relate to her stories. He goes on to confirm his asexuality and virginity, but assures her his lack of bias and "innocence" is what makes him the right man to hear her story. She becomes inspired to tell him another portion of her life after noticing an Andrei Rublev-styled icon of the Virgin Mary and a discussion about the differences between the Eastern Church ('the church of happiness") and the Western Church ("the church of suffering").
6. "The Eastern and the Western Church (The Silent Duck)"
Joe falls into a crisis when she realizes that she has lost all interest in sex; Jerôme and she try to work on her problem, but nothing seems to work. When the two conceive a baby together, Marcel, Jerôme struggles to keep up with her constant sex demand and so he allows her to frequent other men in order to satisfy her mood. This is shown to be detrimental later however as he becomes jealous of her endeavors.
As the years pass, her sexual endeavors become increasingly fetishistic - as she encourages a tryst with an African immigrant that becomes a botched threesome when he brings his brother along - and eventually violent, culminating in visits to K (Jamie Bell), a sadomasochist who viciously assaults women seeking his company. The more she visits him, the more Joe's visits to K eventually take priority over her duties to Marcel. When Jerôme comes home one day to find him unattended and in danger of falling out of their apartment, he starts watching Joe closely and, on Christmas Day, makes her pick between her family or K. She picks the latter and, after receiving a savage beating from K, takes a path of loneliness away from her one and only possibility of a normal life.
Joe concludes the story, to keep it from ending on an unhappy note, with the first time K fisted her, her introduction to "the Silent Duck," which leaves Seligman surprised and impressed at K's talents.
7. "The Mirror"
Some time passes and Joe is left with some irreversible damage due to a lifetime of sexual activity mixed with K's brutality. Her nymphomania is shown to be well known around her new office, prompting her boss to demand she attend sex addiction anonymous groups under the threat of losing her current job and any future jobs she takes. After three weeks of sexual sobriety, Joe drops out of the meetings after seeing a reflection of her younger self in a mirror and verbally attacking her therapist and every other member of the group.
In between chapters, Joe tells Seligman she isn't sure where to continue from that point as she's used every item from around his room to help inspire each "chapter". After a suggestion from him, she notices how the stain from a cup of tea she threw in anger at the climax of "The Eastern and the Western Church" looks like a Walther PPK, the same kind of gun her favorite literary character James Bond uses, and knows exactly how and where to end her story.
8. "The Gun"
Realizing she has no place in society, Joe turns to organized crime and uses her experience in sex and sadomasochism to beat debtors for money. Her superior, L (Willem Dafoe), recommends that she find an apprentice and successor and suggests the daughter of a family of criminals. The girl in question, P (Mia Goth), eventually ends up moving in with Joe. They soon engage in a sexual relationship before Joe teaches P the ropes of her trade.
On one occasion during a round of debt collection, Joe notices that they are at a house belonging to Jerôme (now played by Michaël Pas), and, to make sure she is not seen, tells P to perform her first solo job. Joe soon discovers that P is cheating on her with Jerôme. After being inspired by finding her "soul tree" in a failed attempt to leave town, she waits for Jerôme and P in an alley in between Jerôme's home and Joe's apartment and pulls a gun she confiscated from P earlier on him. When she pulls the trigger, she forgets to rack the pistol to chamber a round and Jerôme viciously beats Joe, then penetrates P in front of her in the same way he took Joe's virginity. P then urinates on her and they leave her as she was at the beginning of the story.
In the present Seligman describes to Joe that the circumstances of her life might have been due to differences in gender representation; all of the stigma, guilt and shame she felt for her actions made her fight back aggressively "like a man". He also states that she subconsciously did not want to kill Jerôme and so forgot to remember you need to rack an automatic pistol. Joe, who has until this moment been playing devil's advocate to Seligman's assumptions, announces she is too tired to go on and asks to go to sleep.
As she begins to drift off, Seligman returns and climbs into Joe's bed with his pants off, attempting to initiate sexual intercourse. The film cuts to black as Joe, realizing what Seligman is trying, reaches for and racks the gun. We hear Seligman protest as he justifies his actions, followed by a gunshot and the sounds of Joe grabbing her things and fleeing the apartment.
- Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe (ages 35–50)
- Stellan Skarsgård as Seligman
- Shia LaBeouf as Jerôme Morris
- Christian Slater as Joe's Father
Vol. I cast
- Uma Thurman as Mrs. H
- Sophie Kennedy Clark as B
- Connie Nielsen as Katherine (Joe's Mother)
- James Northcote as Young Lad 1 on Train
- Charlie G. Hawkins as Young Lad 2 on Train
- Jens Albinus as S
- Felicity Gilbert as Liz (Secretary)
- Jesper Christensen as Jerôme's Uncle
- Hugo Speer as Mr. H
- Cyron Melville as Andy (A)
- Saskia Reeves as Nurse
- Nicolas Bro as F
- Christian Gade Bjerrum as G
Vol. II cast
- Jamie Bell as K
- Willem Dafoe as L
- Mia Goth as P
- Michaël Pas as Older Jerôme
- Jean-Marc Barr as the Debtor Gentleman
- Udo Kier as The Waiter
- Shanti Roney as Interpreter
- Caroline Goodall as Psychologist
- Kate Ashfield as Therapist
- Tania Carlin as Renée
- Daniela Lebang as Brunelda
- Omar Shargawi as Thug 1
- Marcus Jakovljevic as Thug 2
- Severin von Hoensbroech as Debtor in Greenhouse
Executive producer and Zentropa co-founder Peter Aalbæk Jensen revealed that the film is to be two parts. "We are making two films. It is a big operation. I personally hope that we should be ready for Cannes next year. We will shoot both and edit both – and we want to finish both at the same time.” He explained there will be two versions of each film: an explicit cut and a softer cut.
LaBeouf said in August 2012 that, "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."
To produce scenes of unsimulated sex, Trier used digital compositing to superimpose the genitals of pornographic film actors onto the bodies of the film's actors. Producer Louise Vesth explained during the Cannes Film Festival:
We shot the actors pretending to have sex and then had the body doubles, who really did have sex, and in post we will digital impose the two. So above the waist it will be the star and the below the waist it will be the doubles.
Gainsbourg and Martin further revealed that prosthetic vaginae and closed sets were used during filming. Martin stated that her acting experience for the film was enjoyable and, after explaining that the film's characters are a reflection of the director himself, referred to the process as an "honour." Martin also stated that shooting the sex scenes was a bit boring due to their technical nature.
The film makes several references to the other films in the trilogy. For example, the scene showing Marcel approaching an open upper floor window references the similar sequence during the beginning of Antichrist and even uses the same background music from that aforementioned scene. Furthermore, Joe's monologue about loneliness is edited to shots of the universe from Melancholia.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2014)|
A seven-track soundtrack was released digitally by Zentropa on June 27, 2014, containing a mix of classical and modern rock music, along with two sound clips from the prologue of the film.
- Prologue part I – Kristian Eidnes Andersen
- "Führe mich" – from Rammstein's 2009 album Liebe ist für alle da
- Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, arranged for cello (César Franck) – Henrik Dam Thomsen and Ulrich Staerk
- Waltz from Jazz Suite No. 2 (Dmitri Shostakovich) – Russian State Symphony Orchestra
- "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639, chorale prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach – Mads Høck
- Prologue part II – Kristian Eidnes Andersen
- "Hey Joe" – Charlotte Gainsbourg
Songs not included
- Waltz from Jazz Suite No. 2 (Dmitri Shostakovich) – Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
- "Born to Be Wild" – Steppenwolf
- The Carnival of the Animals: XIII. Le Cygne (The Swan) (Camille Saint-Saëns) – Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
- Missa Hodie Christus natus est: I. Kyrie (Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina) – Schola Cantorum of Oxford
- Das Rheingold: Verwandlungsmusik (Richard Wagner) – Staatsorchester Stuttgart (de)
- Bagatelle in A minor, WoO 59 "Für Elise" (Ludwig van Beethoven) – Balázs Szokolay
- "Lascia ch'io pianga" (George Frideric Handel) – Tuva Semmingsen (sv) & Barokksolistene
- Requiem Mass In D minor, K. 626: I. Introitus: Requiem aeternam (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) – Slovak Philharmonic & Chorus
- "Burning Down the House" (live) – Talking Heads
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2014)|
In early 2013, the first teaser poster was released from the film's official website. Shortly thereafter, Zentropa released a promotional photo shoot featuring the film's main characters posing in suggestive positions and a list of the film's chapters. This was followed by the release of a picture of Trier himself with duct tape covering his mouth, accompanied by a press release explaining the official launch of the film's campaign.
An incremental marketing campaign was used to promote the film, as brief video segments, each described as an "appetizer" by the film's production company, were released on the Internet leading up to the film's release date. Each appetizer represented each of the eight chapters of Nymphomaniac and the first one, entitled “The Compleat Angler,” appeared on June 28, 2013, the last Friday of the month—this pattern would be followed for the monthly release of the subsequent clips. Following "The Compleat Angler," "Jerôme," featuring Martin and LaBeouf, was released in August; "Mrs. H" in September; the predominantly black-and-white "Delirium" (containing a voice-over by Skarsgård) was released in October; in November, the appetizer for "The Little Organ School" was uploaded to YouTube, but was quickly removed due to its explicit content; on November 29, "The Eastern and the Western Church" was released exclusively for Vimeo; in December, the appetizer for "The Mirror" was released, again on Vimeo; and on December 25, leading into the European release of the film, "The Gun" was released on the film's official website.
In October 2013, a series of posters were released, each depicting the film's characters during the moment of orgasm. Along with the appetizers and the character posters, five theatrical posters (three for the complete feature and one for each volume) and an international trailer featuring some of the explicit sexual scenes, were released.
In Pinellas Park, Florida, the international trailer was reportedly shown by mistake to the audience before the Disney PG-rated animated film Frozen. However, it was later acknowledged that it was extremely unlikely that any section of the film could have been played; it is believed that the film accidentally played was Dallas Buyers Club, which opens with a sex scene.
NC-17 rating problem
Von Trier's complete five-and-a-half-hour version was released in few territories and only long after the original premiere. Instead, a four-hour version was edited without the director's involvement and has been used for the film's international release, divided into two volumes — Volume I and Volume II — with ninety minutes missing.
Lars von Trier’s upcoming NYMPHOMANIAC is distributed in two parts (Volume I and II) and two versions (one lasting four hours in total, one in five and a half hours in total). From December 25th 2013, and approximately four months ahead, the four-hour long NYMPHOMANIAC Volume I and II is released worldwide. In some territories the two volumes will be released at the same time, and in some territories the volumes will be released apart. Each country has its own rules of censorship and in order to create cohesion between each country’s distribution strategies the four-hour long version will be the one released first. And even this version is expected to meet minor additional changes in certain countries. Just as Lars von Trier gave consent to the making of different censored versions of ANTICHRIST, when that film was released, Trier has also approved of this version of NYMPHOMANIAC. Technically the changes in the abridged version consist of an editing-out of the most explicit close-ups of genitals and the film has, in agreement with Lars von Trier, been shortened by his editors to a length, which has been decided upon in collaboration with several of the film’s stakeholders, two parts of two hours each. The five-and-a-half-hour long version of NYMPHOMANIAC Volume I and II expect to be finalized for distribution sometime in 2014. When, exactly, is to be confirmed. This version will be distributed in those parts of the world where laws of censorship allow. Ever since NYMPHOMANIAC was announced as Lars von Trier’s next project it’s been out in the open that the film would be distributed in different versions, ensuring financing, and as widespread distribution of NYMPHOMANIAC as possible, and finally to ensure Lars von Trier as much artistic freedom as possible.
— Producer Louise Vesth, November 2013, quoted from Nymphomaniac International Press Materials
The film's UK premiere was on 22 February 2014. In the United States, the film was also released in two parts, billed as Nymphomaniac: Volume I and Nymphomaniac: Volume II, but on separate dates: March 21, 2014 and April 4, 2014. Volume I was released March 6, 2014 on demand.
In Australia and New Zealand, the four-hour version of the film was distributed by the Transmission Films company. Released on March 20, 2014, the two volumes were shown back-to-back with an interval.
In February 2014, a complete Director's Cut version of the film's Volume I was screened at the Berlin Film Festival. In September 2014, a complete Director's Cut version of the film's Volume II was screened at the Venice Film Festival.
The complete five and a half hours Director's Cut, including both volumes, was finally released to a general audience in Copenhagen, Denmark, premiering on September 10, 2014, where it was shown with a half hour intermission at a red carpet gala screening with the director present in the audience; at this premiere, during the film's abortion sequence, three male audience members fainted and had to be carried out of the cinema.
Censored four hour version
On Rotten Tomatoes, Volume I achieved a 75% rating with an average rating of 6.9/10, based on 154 reviews; the consensus states: "Darkly funny, fearlessly bold, and thoroughly indulgent, Nymphomaniac finds Lars von Trier provoking viewers with customary abandon."Volume II received a 67% rating with an average rating of 6.4/10—based on 58 reviews. On Metacritic, the first volume holds a 64/100 rating, indicating "generally favorable reviews". However, on Metacritic, the second volume received a 60/100 rating, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
In England, Martin Solibakke of Mancunion praised Stacy Martin's performance, saying he had "never felt so sure about an actress' future success since I saw Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone four years ago". He ended his review with hailing the film, saying "Lars von Trier ends up hitting the G-spot of avant-garde filmmaking with a movie only he could ever make, and gives the open-minded members of the audience one of the most powerful and sensational experiences ever seen in arts." 
In Australia, David Stratton explained in The Australian newspaper that he "detested" some of Trier's films, and states that Nymphomaniac "seems designed to be his magnum opus, the film in which he gets to rail against everything he loathes about contemporary life and contemporary cinema." The modified version is screening in Australia, officially referred to as the "international" version. Stratton further stated on the television review program At the Movies that he found the four hour runtime of the film to be "daunting", but praised some of the performances, particularly those of Stacy Martin and Jamie Bell. Stratton's cohost Margaret Pomeranz meanwhile, while also praising the boldness of the performances, felt the film's unsimulated depictions of sex didn't add to the narrative and as such had, "such an undercurrent of sadism that I was, not repelled, but distanced". ThoughtCatalog remarked on how the plot failed to be consistent or plausible.
On the Melbourne community radio station, 3RRR, film criticism program "Plato's Cave" praised Von Trier's work on Nymphomaniac and presenters, Thomas Caldwell and Josh Nelson, defended the director against accusations of misogyny. Both presenters agreed that actresses who Von Trier has worked with, such as Nicole Kidman and Björk, have delivered excellent performances in his films, while Nelson referred to Antichrist and Melancholia, the first two installments of the Depression trilogy, as "masterpieces". Caldwell concludes the review by stating, "... if you're coming new to him [Von Trier], I think this is a real crash course in all his preoccupations."
Uncensored 5½ hour Director's Cut version
In Denmark, where the complete Director's Cut had its world premiere on 10 September 2014, all major critics gave it the highest possible ratings.
||This article uses bare URLs for citations, which may be threatened by link rot. (September 2014)|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nymphomaniac (film).|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Nymphomaniac (film)|
- Official website
- Official website – Magnolia Pictures
- Nymphomaniac: Volume I at the Internet Movie Database
- Nymphomaniac: Volume II at the Internet Movie Database
- Nymphomaniac: Volume I at Box Office Mojo
- Nymphomaniac: Volume II at Box Office Mojo
- Nymphomaniac: Volume I at Rotten Tomatoes
- Nymphomaniac: Volume II at Rotten Tomatoes
- Nymphomaniac: Volume I at Metacritic
- Nymphomaniac: Volume II at Metacritic