The Purveyor of Sexual Gratification

The controversial Danish film director Lars von Trier has made a full-frontal, four-hour art house porn movie starring his favourite actress Charlotte Gainsbourg and a host of well-known actors and actresses including Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Stellan Skarsgård and Jamie Bell.

The film will premiere – rather inappropriately – on Christmas Day in Copenhagen. Nymphomaniac, the title of the film, is shot in English and stars Gainsbourg as Joe, a sex addict, who is found badly beaten in an alley and later tells her long and graphic story to an older man, Seligman (played by Skarsgård). The young Joe is played by twenty-two-year-old British actress Stacy Martin, and the drama leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination – although actual penetration and other sexual variations were completed by body doubles from the porn industry.

There has been much media foreplay in the form of softcore pornographic trailers, one of which was banned, and a highly amusing poster campaign which showed the faces of fourteen actors in mid orgasm. But those who have seen a rough cut of the film say it is surprisingly unerotic and that the first half is easier to stomach than the sadomasochism and violence of the second.

Uma Thurman is said to turn in a fine, if short, performance during which she says to the young Joe: ‘Would it be all right if I show the children the whoring bed?’

Starting with Nymphomaniac Part 1 the film will be shown in British cinemas in two parts from 7th March, and continues von Trier’s trajectory as an enfant terrible. His last two films with Gainsbourg have been trouble weary. Audiences were horrified, including myself, when she took scissors to her genitals in Antichrist – and during the press conference for Melancholia, Von Trier was banned from the Cannes Film Festival after he made ‘pro-Nazi remarks’ in response to questions from The Times. Since then, the director has refused to talk to the press.

The four-hour double bill is ‘the abridged and censored version’, and von Trier will release the director’s uncut five-and-a-half-hour version next year.

I’m sure the film will receive massive attention because of its subject matter and the notoriety of its director, who is certainly a great talent. However, what I find unacceptable in his films is the extreme violence which he is keen to portray for perhaps no other reason than to ingratiate himself and others of a similar ilk. It’s a great pity, for he remains a formidable film director – though his twisted mind has sometimes the habit of demeaning his artistry and the eventual product.

Will I see the film? Certainly…as an observer of human frailties and a film-buff, I can ill afford to stay away.

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