Blu-Ray Review: Nymphomaniac (Director’s Cut)


You won't be spared in this new, grittier vision of the story of Joe.

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Lars “l’enfant terrible von Trier hasn’t stopped to provoke with Nymphomaniac yet, as the film finally got a Blu-ray and DVD release in the UK earlier last month. The marketing of the director’s latest film had by far outreached the content of the feature itself; von Trier insisted on controversially defining the film as ‘porn’ and released posters showing the main characters at the peak of their jouissance. Specifically to the UK, the two volumes of the story of Joe, a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac, were released in cinema for a special ‘one-night stand’ evening only. However, although already graphically explicit, the director strongly insisted that the cut available then had been censored. Is the new cut any different and worth watching? The answer is a strong yes, but beware, you won’t be spared in this new grittier vision of the story of Joe.

The film is divided in two parts, both strongly different from one another. The first lightly relates to Joe’s first sexual experiences, the discovery of her body, the games she played with her friends, her relationship with her dad, and it’s this volume that doesn’t really benefit from the director’s cut. A few shots are added here and there, but they don’t inherently change the motive of the narration or the aesthetic choices previously made. Volume II, however, drastically changes under the darker light of the director’s decisions. In this volume, Joe has lost the capacity to orgasm and, in a form of Sadean storytelling, explores the darkest paths of sexuality whilst trying to rediscover and redefine herself, but also her relationships.

The first cut of the second part was deeply disappointing. Provocative for no apparent reason and somehow all too-well written out, the film used to give keys to Joe’s behaviour, almost pre-masticating the reflection for the audience. The director’s cut isn’t made of the same material. Joe’s contradictions are highlighted throughout and the content of the film becomes von Trier at his best (or his worst, depending on your opinion on the director’s work). Strongly echoing Antichrist, whilst taking a step further in provocation, the film seems to explore different facets of the Western stigmatisation of femininity and, once again, directly embodies them in the content of its aesthetic. The abortion sequence, the main addition to the latest version of the film, is probably one of the worst scenes to be seen on screen. Graphically explicit, the mixed discourse held by Joe afterwards, a mother who has killed her baby in the womb, is there to provoke but also reflect on contemporary blame imposed on women in such a matter. Like the woman with no-name in Antichrist, Joe seems to have accepted the worst definition of womankind created by patriarchy, which defines women as evil in their essence.

The marketing of the director’s cut is far more quieter than the 2013 marketing campaign for the release of the film itself. However, the uncensored version, whilst loosing the linear narrative structure, gains in reflection, offering a completely different cinematographic experience. Darker and more provocative, the film does make you forget about love, the love Joe should give to others, but, most of all, the love Joe should give to herself.

Nymphomaniac Director’s Cut (2013), directed by Lars von Trier, is distributed in the UK by Artificial Eye, Certificate 18. 


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Ex-Film Editor and future ex-MA student, dissecting films since 2006.

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