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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, Sept. 3


Although the Peter and Paul Fortress sand sculptures are more central and therefore more visible to the throngs of tourists, the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburgs own collection closes today. The World Collection of Sand Sculptures that have been on display at the park reaches its final day, so fans of the classic beach activity should get there while they can.



Thursday, Sept. 4


Vladimir I. Danchenkov, Head of Baltic Customs, will be in attendance during AmChams Customs and Transportation Committee Meeting convening this afternoon at the organizations office near St. Isaacs Square at 3 p.m.



Friday, Sept. 5


Scrabble lovers and chess masters get their chance to assert their intellectual dominance at the return of the British Book Centers Board Game Evenings tonight. Held weekly on Friday nights, the event gives both board game lovers and those hoping to improve their English the chance to meet, greet and compete. Check out the centers VK page for more details.



Saturday, Sept. 6


Athletes will relish the chance to get the latest gear and try out something new at I Choose Sport, an annual event at Lenexpo forum that plans to welcome more than 30,000 people this week to the international exhibition center. Not only will visitors get to try their hand at various athletic endeavors but they will also be able to peruse equipment that can fulfill their dreams of becoming a champion.


Local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg open their season this evening at home against Lokomotiv Yarovslavl at the Ice Palace arena next to the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. See their website for a full schedule and available tickets.



Sunday, Sept. 7


Check out retro and antique cars at Fort Konstantin on Kronstadt Island in the Gulf of Finland at FORTuna, a yearly car festival that highlights the eccentricities of the Soviet automobile industry. A car race, contests and a stunt show will give visitors a chance to rev their engines.



Monday, Sept. 8


This evening marks the opening of the two-week ballet festival High Season at the Mikhailovsky Theater. Check the theaters website for more details about performances and featured dancers.



Tuesday, Sept. 9


Discuss the latest news and issues at the AmCham Hazardous Waste Management Roundtable this morning in the Tango Conference Hall of the Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge on Birzhevoy Pereulok. Starting at 9 a.m., planned topics include the Krasny Bor landfill and waste transportation between Russia and Finland.


Learn more about the citys modern architectural trends at the SPIBA Real Estate and Construction Committees meeting on the topic Contemporary Petersburg Style: What is It? Participants will get the chance to discuss whats in-demand with RBI Holdings Irina Petrova and Lubava Pryanikova, and the current state of the local real estate market. Please confirm your attendance by Sept. 5 through SPIBAs website if you wish to attend.



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