• Datum 16-01-2014
  • Auteur
  • Deel dit artikel

Illustratie Typex

Well, we all know how it is with movies and filmmaking in the big bad US of A. It’s big business and the director is just a tiny cog in the machine. But this is Europe and I am supposed to review Lars von Triers Nymphomaniac. The first thing I see on the screen is a disclaimer. A message tells me that — although four hours long — this is an abbreviated version of the film, one that von Trier reluctantly accepts, but at the same time maintains he has had nothing to do with seeing through to its conclusion.
So does that mean that the real Nymphomaniac is the 5 hour 30 minutes version that I haven’t seen yet? If so, what am I reviewing? Is the movie appearing all over Denmark this Christmas the work of art called Nymphomaniac, or is it something else, something half-baked and born out of compromise? Is it ice-cold commercial calculation that is standing between the auteur and his work? Nope, this is not America. This is Europe, this is Denmark — and so much more weird! After all, Lars von Trier as part-owner of Zentropa sort of is the big bad company that has forced him to accept the four hour long ‘easy reader’-version!
Maybe this a consequence of modern co-European filmmaking, of which Zentropa has been a pioneer. You parcel out and sell your film in advance, to get the darn thing made. You’ve made a film that is so long that it cannot be seen as an acceptable commodity packaged for the cinemas. But distributors have already bought a product. So you do the right thing. You release it as two ‘regular’ movies. As a Nymphomaniac that is not quite the real thing, but the one you buy the tickets for. And the one you have to review.
I wonder if the Nymphomaniac I see is designed for family viewing. The porn is surprisingly discreet. All over the world, distributors have been told to feel free to cut out offending parts. So again — what is it I am reviewing? Is this a work of art or a franchise? Does Nymphomaniac exist as a work of art in the shape of the movie distributed in cinemas worldwide or will it be undermined by the ‘real’ Nymphomaniac that will be screened out of competition at the Berlin Film Festival?
Luckily, even the castrated version of ‘Nymphomaniac’ is a highly fascinating and maverick piece of European filmmaking. From lessons in fly rod fishing to its Proustian slowness, this bookish and yet strikingly visual tale is every bit as tantalizing and original as anything Von Trier has made. Even though I still don’t know what I’ve been reviewing. Does it make any sense to talk about something like a director’s cut when the director is also the money talking? Maybe it’s just a very Danish thing. You have to have two heads. One talks about art, the other about the bottom line. They don’t have to agree in public. Actually, it’s probably better if they don’t. Then you can pull it off, pulling in seemingly opposite directions.

Kim Skotte is a film critic for Danish daily Politiken