7. Nymphomaniac (March 6 & April 3 US / February 22 UK)
Lars Trier was born the son of his communist nudist mother and her boss, although she only told him that on her deathbed. He added a Von to his name to give himself more of an impact. These things may be relevant.
In fact, his love of impact means he’s happy to practically assault the audience. This is the guy who said “a film should be like a stone in your shoe”, although watching a Lars Von Trier film can sometimes be more like a slap to the face. It’s not necessarily fun for the actors either: John C Reilly walked of the set of Manderlay when they slaughtered a donkey. Bjork was forced to stay in character for so long in Dancer in the Dark that she eventually went and hid in a bush, and tried to eat her own dress. Or so he says.
Incidentally, his mother’s deathbed explanation for her affair was that her boss was descended from a long line of Roman Catholic musicians, and she wanted her child to have “artistic genes”. Again, we only have Von Trier’s word for this.
Anyway, as good as many of her earlier films are (The Idiots, Dogville), I think his current run surpasses everything he did before. Nicknamed “the depression trilogy”, it comprises the domestic horror/black magic movie Antichrist, the wedding/apocalypse movie Melancholia, and now the biopic/sex film Nymphomaniac. I love Antichrist and Melancholia. I find them tense, beautiful, thoughtful, psychologically highly stylised (but still in genuine pursuit of spiritual truth), and very very funny.
The deadpan humour is perhaps not on everyone’s wavelength. It can look through some eyes like overwrought pretentiousness, whether the camera is lingering on the frosty stares between couples, or yet another Breugel painting. Perhaps that’s why Antichrist scores 48% on Rotten Tomatoes. That and the fact Charlotte Gainsbourg performs FGM on herself with a pair of garden shears.
Nymphomaniac completes the trilogy, and stars Gainsbourg in the title role. We see her recounting her life in a reduced-down form as series of increasingly deranged sexual encounters, as told to a friendly good Samaritan who saves her from a back-alley thrashing. The film lasts around five hours, and comes in one or two parts, depending on the cut. The bad guy is played by Shia “skywriting” LaBeouf in a 70s suit.
You may have been wondering what triggered Shia LaBeouf’s recent mental collapse. Wonder no more. – AJP
(Also starring Stellan Skarsgard, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman, Udo Keir and Willem Defoe.)