Upon rewatching Nymphomaniac in its extended Director’s Cut form I found myself appreciating it a lot more. The differences aren’t glaringly obvious at first but the whole thing does feel more comprehensive and complete. This is what Lars von Trier making a definitive statement looks like.
The scope and sheer breadth of topics covered in Nymphomaniac is exhaustive. I’d forgotten how fucking bizarre and nerdy all the random tangents were, everything from fly-fishing and the Fibonacci number sequence to helicopter take-offs and James Bond crop up. It’s nuts. But oddly addictive.
Famously this is the first film von Trier has written completely sober and it took him close to two years to complete, which might explain its bloated and scattershot focus (he has since abandoned this approach and taken up drinking again to speed up his process). You get the sense that Lars submerged himself in a mountain of research and simply poured everything that interested him into this project. It would be easy to call the film overlong and self-indulgent but strangely it feels exactly as it should be. Its length and encyclopedic analysis are the film. The added fat on the extended cut only make it more fascinating. Also more distressing, the longer self-abortion scene almost wiped me out! Incredibly visceral stuff.
You should know I’m a total von Trier devotee but Nymphomaniac left me pretty underwhelmed the first time around. I felt that it was a bit like treading water, more a greatest hits collection of his signature motifs, actors and concerns than a progressive leap forward. My opinion hasn’t completely changed but I was much more receptive to its tempo this time around and actually found it pretty startling. It is completely unlike anything else made in the past few years and has earned itself a high spot on my favourite films made this decade so far. Von Trier’s playfulness here is extremely refreshing following on from the feel-bad double whammy of Antichrist and Melancholia. The Antichrist callback continues to set my world on fire (a good thing) and von Trier’s unfolding ambition is nothing short of awesome. How many other male filmmakers set out to make a 5+ hour movie about a woman in her 40s? Not enough! The daunting run-time is worth it. A great film.