Nymphomaniac finds a date in Oz

05 February, 2014 by Don Groves

Lars von Trier's provocative drama Nymphomaniac has been creating headlines for its explicit sex scenes, the marathon running time and the director’s refusal to discuss the film.

Australian cinemagoers will get their first chance to see the steamy two-part film when it opens on March 20, but it will be a limited release.


Distributor Transmission Films hasn’t booked cinemas yet but co-founder Andrew Mackie tells IF it will play on about six screens. The two-parts will screen back-to-back, meaning a running time of about four hours. The Danish writer-director’s original cut was 5½ hours.  The Dendy Newtown is one confirmed location.

In Part 1, an elderly bachelor (Stellan Skarsgård), discovers Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac, badly beaten up in an alley. He takes her to his home and tends to her wounds, while she recounts the erotic story of her adolescence and young adulthood.

UK actress Stacy Martin plays her as a teenager. Shia LaBeouf is cast as a young guy who deflowers her.  Part 2 follows her later experiences, featuring Jamie Bell, Willem Dafoe, Mia Goth and Jean-Marc Barr.

Variety reviewer Peter Debruge opined. “With his sexually explicit, four-hour magnum opus Nymphomaniac, world cinema’s 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.

“Racy subject aside, the film provides a good-humoured 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.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy described the film as “never boring and [it] does provoke and stimulate, although not as a turn-on, not remotely. At its core the film represents an intellectual male artist's arduous, wayward, idiocentric, blunt, naughty-boy attempt to address Freud's famous question: “What does a woman want?”

“There are flashes of hard-core action during the initial two hours — the odd angle here and there, some insert shots — but mostly the sex scenes look like pretty standard simulation. Volume two gets down in ways the first half doesn't, although anything resembling real sensuality remains MIA.”

Mackie will see the film when it screens out of competition at the Berlin Film Festival next week. As for the likely classification in Oz, he says, “Based on what we've seen and been told we're confident it should get through with an R.”

Debruge’s prediction that the film is “a better fit for cinephiles than for the raincoat crowd” may be right on the money.

Nymphomaniac had its world premiere in Denmark on December 25 and in the first five weeks grossed a modest $US1 million.