Lars Von Trier unveiled the longer, director’s cut of his new film ‘Nymphomaniac Part One’ at the Berlin Film Festival last night. I’d already seen the shorter (by about 25 minutes) version before Christmas, and that was not exactly sex-free in its telling of the sexual obsessions of Joe (Stacy Martin), who we meet first as a teenager losing her virginity to a mechanic (Shia LaBeouf) and later as a young woman who has sex with up to ten men a day.
Ever since Von Trier announced he was filming a two-part, explicit study of a sex addict, rumours have abounded of the Danish filmmaker spending hours on set working with porn doubles. So what would the extended, Von Trier-approved film look like? More raunchy, more in-yer-face, more genitalia? Surely?
Having now seen both versions, I can confirm there are a few extra, quick shots of full-on sex (a close-up of a tongue licking a clitoris; a penis dangling over an actor’s face; a few thrusts), but actually it feels like there’s less sex in this version, not more. The extra minutes have mostly been found by stretching out mysterious conversations about trees, fly-fishing and maths between a damaged older Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and a stranger (Stellan Skarsgard) who takes her in off the street one night. A section dealing with the terminal illness of Joe’s father (Christian Slater) is longer too – putting a sobering distance between the film’s sex scenes.
Only Lars Von Trier could shock by dialling down – not up – the shock value of his films. Dave Calhoun