But because it’s von Trier (who famously got himself banned from Cannes a few years ago with remarks about Nazis) and because it’s a long, long exploration of sex and sexual mores, “Nymphomaniac,” from Zentropa Entertainments, hits screens with more attention than usual.
Zentropa, launched by von Trier and Peter Aalbaek Jensen in 1992 is Scandinavia’s biggest and most important production company, with recent notable films including Susanne Bier’s Oscar winner “In a Better World” and her pic “Love Is All You Need,” which won the best comedy prize at the recent European Film Awards, and Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt.”
But with “Nymphomaniac,” the shingle will have to defend itself against many who will label the film pornography and without artistic merit. What gives Zentropa the confidence to back this extraordinary and unwieldy release?
“Nymphomaniac” producer Louise Vesth notes that the basic DNA of the shingle that was created by von Trier and Aalbaek Jensen gives the Zentropa producers and filmmakers the courage to experiment and question cinematic mores. This is the group, after all, that helped launch Dogma 95. “I’m not afraid of anything, and when something is difficult, we must do what we believe in and make it to the full,” says Vesth, who also produced von Trier’s “Melancholia,” Nikolaj Arcel’s “A Royal Affair” and recently Mikkel Norgaard’s crime thriller “The Keeper of Lost Causes,” adapted from Jussi Adler-Olsen’s bestseller.
“It goes without saying that Lars is extremely important to Zentropa, both financially and artistically. The good news is that there are now many other directors. Lars has paved the way for other directors’ success and therefore Lars is a smaller part of Zentropa’s economy today than he has been.”
The film will be released in two versions, with one running some four hours, and another clocking in at 5½; both versions will be shown in two parts.
The shorter version will be released in Denmark and Spain on Christmas Day, while for the rest of the world it will roll out over the first quarter of 2014. In the U.S., the two-parter will be released March 25 and April 18 by Magnolia. The longer, more sexually explicit cut will be launched later in 2014. In addition to the longer running time, that version also has more close-ups of genitals.
“I would not call it a compromise,” says Vesth. “It’s in order to get the best out of two worlds, to have all the most explicit sex scenes and all the material in the long version and while also getting a version that can be distributed throughout the world (that conform to local) market conditions in cinemas and on TV.”
Just as von Trier gave consent to the making of different censored versions of his 2009 pic “Antichrist,” the director has also approved of the shorter version of “Nymphomaniac,” even though he only worked on the edit of the longer version.
In the new film, Charlotte Gainsbourg stars as the nymphomaniac, alongside Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman, Willem Dafoe, Christian Slater as well as von Trier regulars Jean-Marc Barr and Udo Kier.
“The international stars work with Lars von Trier because he has a unique ability to get the best out of them. Of course we can’t pay what they’re used to, but I think we can offer lots of other things. In my opinion, most of them love working with Lars because he is generous in relation to people’s abilities and their use of them,” says Vesth.
Von Trier is also famously eccentric when it comes to dealing with media, despite making films that are deliberately provocative and meant to ignite debate.
“He doesn’t like the attention and is happy not to participate. He is fond of his movies and not particularly concerned about what others think. But he is obviously happy when people like what he does,” says Vesth.
Zentropa’s run lately has been strong.
“Because Zentropa are, in all modesty, good at combining limited budgets with great artistic integrity. We are good at combining the best of two worlds: art and markets,” says Vesth.