×

‘Nymphomaniac Vol. 1’ Review: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

The unedited version of Lars von Trier's shagnum opus is somewhat more explicit than its whittled-down predecessor but structurally similar.

Between director Lars von Trier’s custom “persona non grata” T-shirt and star Shia LaBeouf’s press-conference walkout and paper-bag mask, “Nymphomaniac Vol. 1” generated at least as much attention offscreen as it did on Sunday afternoon at the Berlin Film Festival. Meanwhile, inside the packed 1,600-seat Berlinale Palast, audiences got their first look at the bigger, longer and uncut version of von Trier’s magnum opus — or, at least, the first part of it, with the uncut “Vol. 2” expected to premiere at another high-profile festival sometime later in the year.

And there was quite a lot more to see — 30 minutes’ worth, to be exact — of the Danish director’s bifurcated magnum opus, compared with the edited version released commercially in Europe last December and screened at the Sundance Film Festival last month. But both in the lobby following the screening and on social media afterward, many critics — including this one — were at a loss to itemize exactly which scenes and sequences had been augmented for this director’s cut. “Was the Proust joke there before?” asked one colleague, while another suggested that an early shot of the Norse mythological god Odin sitting in a tree might have been a new addition.

One thing everyone could agree on: The longer “Vol. 1” includes a modicum of more explicit sexual footage, most conspicuously during an episode of oral sex on a moving train that now features a screen-filling closeup of an ejaculating penis where none was before. An erect member belonging either to Mr. LaBeouf or his body double also makes a more prominent appearance during the end-of-“Vol. 1” sex scene in which the movie’s titular heroine, Joe (played as a young woman by newcomer Stacy Martin and, in middle age, by Charlotte Gainsbourg), loses all feeling … down there.

SEE MORE: 3View: A Three-Way Take on ‘Nymphomaniac’ by Variety Critics

Among less sensational additions, a visit by Joe to her dying father (Christian Slater) has been significantly expanded. Alas, it appears that von Trier had already used every available frame of “Vol. 1’s” most showstopping encounter — the confrontation of Joe by one of her lovers’ jilted wife (Uma Thurman) — the first time around. Hell hath no fury like a woman dumped for a sex addict.

Structurally, however, the two versions of the film are the same, meaning audiences who see the shorter “Vol. 1” in general release or on VOD when it opens in the U.S. this spring needn’t feel they’re missing out on all that much (compared with, say, movies like “Heaven’s Gate” and “Once Upon a Time in America” that had entire hours shorn from them for mass-audience consumption). In either edit, the movie remains a ferociously entertaining experience in which one finds von Trier at the peak of his craft, linking together ideas about female sexuality, fly-fishing and artistic creation with equal amounts of playfulness and intellectual rigor. As one surprised journalist told the cast (and, by extension, their absent director) at the press conference, “It was a lot more fun than we expected.”

More Film

  • Writers Guild Posts Scathing Video Attack

    Writers Guild Posts Scathing Video Attack on Agency Packaging

    The Writers Guild of America, which is threatening to require members to fire their agents, has posted a scathing video attacking how major agencies conduct packaging. Titled “Agency Conflicts of Interest,” the video explains that compensation for writers has declined by 23% between 2014 and 2016 and blames the agencies for taking packaging fees on [...]

  • CAA Owner TPG Buying Payroll Specialist

    CAA Owner TPG Buying Payroll Specialist Entertainment Partners

    TPG Capital, the massive private equity firm that owns Creative Artists Agency, is buying payroll specialist Entertainment Partners for an undisclosed price. Entertainment Partners’ management team, led by president and CEO Mark Goldstein, will continue in their roles. The agreement was announced Tuesday with plans to close the deal during the second quarter. Related Film [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Agents Accuse Writers Guild of Threatening to Throw 'Industry Into Chaos'

    UPDATE – The dealmakers appear to be getting nowhere. Negotiators for Hollywood agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved little progress at their seventh session on Tuesday, with a chaotic scenario looming on April 7. “When Guild leadership is ready to move on from their declared threatening phase, we stand ready to work [...]

  • Zoe Lister-Jones The Craft

    'The Craft' Remake Finds Director in Zoe-Lister Jones

    “Life in Pieces” star Zoe Lister-Jones will write and direct Sony Pictures’ remake of “The Craft” for Blumhouse and Red Wagon Entertainment. Doug Wick, the producer of the original “The Craft,” will return in the same capacity along with partner Lucy Fisher through their Red Wagon banner. Jason Blum is also producing and his Blumhouse [...]

  • Carol Burnett

    Carol Burnett's Mother-Daughter Story 'Carrie and Me' in Development as a Movie

    Carol Burnett’s bestseller “Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story” is in the works as a movie at Focus Features with Burnett, Tina Fey, Eric Gurian, and Steven Rogers producing. Burnett will produce through her Mabel Cat Productions with Fey and Gurian under their production banner Little Stranger along with Rogers (“I, Tonya”). The sibling [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Plans for Agency Pact Expiration: 'There Will Be Difficult Moments'

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have sent members contingency plans for the possible expiration of its agency franchise agreement on April 7 — and admitted that it may be a rocky road. Members received the letter Tuesday from the guild’s negotiating committee as the WGA and agents were about the hold their seventh [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content