When the first still from Lars von Trier’s new film ‘Nymphomaniac’ was released last week, audiences were collectively underwhelmed. The image featured the Danish director’s favourite actress, Charlotte Gainsbourg (we’ve already seen everything she has to offer in Von Trier’s 2009 film ‘Antichrist’), lying prostrate in an alley – hardly indicative of the erotic drama that the title suggests.
But the latest image, which shows Gainsbourg flanked by two half-naked men and presumably engaged in a threesome, is much more what audiences expect from Von Trier’s highly-anticipated upcoming release.
Gainsbourg plays the lead character Joe in the film, a 50-year-old nymphomaniac whose erotic adventures include appearances by well-known actors Stellan Skarsgård, Willem Dafoe, Uma Thurman and Shia LaBeouf.
LaBeouf admitted to feeling nervous when he signed on to star in the film last year – and the newly-released still leaves no question why.
“[Von Trier’s] very dangerous,” LaBeouf told MTV News in August. “He’s the most dangerous dude I’ve ever showed up for. I’m terrified.”
And it seems the actor’s concerns weren’t unfounded. LaBeouf also confirmed speculation that the film would require the cast to perform ‘authentic’ sex scenes.
“It is Lars von Trier, making a movie about what he’s making,” LaBeouf went on. “For instance, there’s a disclaimer at the top of the script that basically says we’re doing it for real. Everything that is illegal, we’ll shoot in blurred images. Other than that, everything is happening.”
The film is mainly composed of flashbacks. Joe, a self-diagnosed sex addict, is found attacked and beaten in an alley. While recuperating, she recounts her sexual experiences from childhood to the age of 50 to the man who rescues her (Skarsgård).
The film had long been rumoured to premiere this spring at the Cannes Film Festival, which could have potentially marked the director’s first appearance at the festival for two years. Von Trier came under fire for comments he made at a Cannes press conference in 2011, during which he claimed to be sympathetic towards Hitler. He was later banned by the festival’s board of directors, and he has not returned since.
But according to Peter Aalbæk Jensen, the managing director of Zentropa Films, the Cannes controversy had nothing to do with the choice to withhold ‘Nymphomaniac’. Instead, Jensen explained, the film’s 268-page script and 100 hours of footage have not left the filmmaker and his team with enough time to prepare for a premiere at Cannes.
“We commissioned four editors to work on the film to be ready for Cannes, but we had to abandon it,” Jensen told French television network TF1. “The work would’ve been distorted had we wanted to finish it for Cannes at all costs.”
The rough cut of the film, Jensen told the Hollywood Reporter, was seven and a half hours long.
“It’s almost enough for three films, and it’s all good,” he said. “I don’t know what we’ll cut.”
Von Trier is understood to be considering at least splitting the film into two full-length parts, both in hard and soft-core versions.