Nymphomaniac (film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Nymphomaniac (stylized in advertising as NYMPH()MANIAC) is a 2013 two-part drama art film written and directed by Lars von Trier. The film stars Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Connie Nielsen, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman, and Willem Dafoe. The film was originally supposed to be only one complete entry; but, because of its four-hour length, von Trier made the decision to split the project into two separate films. Nymphomaniac was an international co-production of Denmark, Belgium, France, and Germany.

The world premiere of the uncut version of "Volume I" of the original five-and-half-hour-long version occurred on 16 February 2014 at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival. The world premiere of the uncut version of "Volume II" debuted at 2014's Venice Film Festival. A "secret" advance screening of Part I occurred at the Sundance Film Festival on 21 January, 2014, at the Egyptian Theater with tickets distributed bearing the film title "Film X" amidst rumors the film could either be Von Trier's film, or Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. The general release world premiere of the complete 5½ hours Director's Cut took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 10 September 2014. The film was nominated for the 2014 Nordic Council Film Prize.

Nymphomaniac is the third and final installment in von Trier's unofficially titled "Depression Trilogy", having been preceded by Antichrist and Melancholia.



On a snowy evening, the elderly bachelor Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) finds the self-diagnosed nymphomaniac Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) beaten up and lying in an alleyway. He brings her back to his apartment and listens intently as Joe recounts the eventful story of her libidinous life. Seligman, a cloistered, overeducated man, connects and analyzes Joe's stories with what he has read about.

Volume I

1. "The Compleat Angler"

Inspired by a fly fishing hook in the wall behind her and Seligman's love of Izaak Walton's book The Compleat Angler, Joe opens her story by talking about her precocious sexual fascination during her early childhood. Her father (Christian Slater) is a tree-loving doctor whom she adores dearly while her mother (Connie Nielsen) is, as Joe describes her, "a cold bitch". In adolescence (Stacy Martin), she loses her virginity to a random young man named Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf). This first encounter, which ends with Jerôme casually leaving her to fix his motorcycle, leaves her disappointed, while Seligman observes that the combination of the number of times Jerôme penetrated her, three times vaginally and five anally, resembles the Fibonacci sequence.

Some years later, Joe engages in a contest with her friend B (Sophie Kennedy Clark) during a train journey; whichever of the two women has sex with the most passengers by the train's arrival at the station wins a bag of chocolate sweets. After having sex in the toilet with several of the men she comes across, Joe wins by performing a blow job on a VIP carriage passenger, S (Jens Albinus). S is a married man who at first resists both her and B's advances, but ultimately gives in.

2. "Jerôme"

Joe talks about her first experiences with actual love, something she dismisses as "lust with jealousy added." Joe takes on more lovers as she, B, and several friends create a club, "The Little Flock", dedicated to liberating themselves from society's fixation on love. Joe eventually leaves after all the other members end up developing serious attachments to their conquests. As a young adult, Joe drops out of medical school and finds work as a secretary at a printing company. Her first employer is none other than Jerôme. Whilst sexual intentions are clearly on his mind, she finds herself avoiding his advances and sleeping with other co-workers, frustrating him. When Joe finally realizes she has developed feelings for Jerôme, she writes him a letter. However, she is too late as he has left along with his uncle's secretary Liz. She is immediately fired by his uncle (Jesper Christensen), the actual owner of the company, for her lack of experience and goes back to indulging her nymphomania, despite a yearning for Jerôme.

3. "Mrs. H"

On one occasion with one of her lovers, H (Hugo Speer), she causes conflict that makes him leave his wife for her. The distressed Mrs. H (Uma Thurman) arrives and demonizes both of them in front of her children, though Joe states in the present that this barely affected her. The situation then becomes more awkward as Joe's next lover, A (Cyron Melville), arrives at the house and finds himself in the middle of Mrs. H's mental breakdown. The family finally leaves, but not before Mrs. H verbally lacerates Joe, slaps her now ex-husband and leaves the apartment wailing.

4. "Delirium"

A conversation about Edgar Allan Poe and his death from delirium tremens reminds Joe of the last time she saw her father. She is the only one to visit him in the hospital as he dies of cancer. Joe’s father asks her not to slander her mother, who is afraid of hospitals, for not being by his side, explaining they said their goodbyes. Joe is a firsthand witness as her father deteriorates into fits of violent spasms. To take her mind off her father’s suffering, Joe sleeps with several people at the hospital. When he finally dies, Joe lubricates in front of the body and becomes numb with depression.

5. "The Little Organ School"

After Seligman explains how he feels Bach perfected polyphony, Joe uses his example to talk about three lovers leading up to her "cantus firmus." The "bass voice", F (Nicolas Bro) is a tender, but predictable man who puts her sexual needs above his own. The "second voice", G (Christian Gade Bjerrum), thrills Joe because of his animalistic control of her in bed. Just before the end, during one of her regular walks, Jerôme finds her after separating from Liz, a coincidence Seligman finds preposterous, and they embrace. As the two engage in authentically passionate sex - set to Joe's experiences with F and G - Joe becomes emotionally distraught when discovering she can no longer 'feel anything'.

Volume II

Joe correctly discerns that Seligman has never slept with a woman, which is why he having trouble relating to her stories. He goes on to confirm his asexuality and virginity, but assures her his lack of bias and "innocence" makes him the best man to listen to her. She becomes inspired to tell him another portion of her life after a discussion about the differences between the Eastern Church ("the church of happiness") and the Western Church ("the church of suffering").

6. "The Eastern and the Western Church (The Silent Duck)"

Joe falls into a crisis upon losing her ability to achieve sexual pleasure; when the two conceive a baby together, Marcel. Jerôme struggles to keep up with her sexual needs and so he allows her to see other men. This is shown to be detrimental later, however, as he becomes jealous of her endeavors.

Joe tries to spice up her sex life by engaging in a tryst with a pair of African brothers, that turns into a botched threesome. Joe's self-hatred and need for novelty leads her to K (Jamie Bell), a sadomasochist who violently assaults women in his office. The more she visits him, the more neglectful she becomes in her domestic duties. On Christmas, Jerôme forces her to choose between the family and K. She picks the latter and takes a path of loneliness away from her one and only possibility of a normal life. Marcel is ultimately sent to live in a foster home.

Joe concludes the story with the first time K fisted her, her introduction to "the Silent Duck".

7. "The Mirror"

After K, Joe regains her sexual drive and becomes pregnant again. She asks her doctor to abort to 11-week pregnancy immediately. The doctor insists that Joe speak to a counselor first, but she is angered and offended by the counselor's questions. She decides to take matters into her own hands and perform the abortion on herself. Using "the common medical procedure that I had learned whilst studying medicine" - except without the anasthetics - she uses a wire hanger and other household instruments to force the fetus out from her womb. [This scene can be seen only on the Director's Cut edition]

Joe reaches a point where sex is now physically painful for her; a lifetime of extreme sexual activity has permanently injured her vagina. Her habits are known around her new office, prompting the boss to demand she attend sex addiction therapy. Joe attempts sobriety for three weeks and then abandons support group. She harshly insults every member of the group, and proclaims pride in her sexuality.

Suddenly, Joe notices how a stain on the wall resembles a Walther PPK gun, and knows exactly where and how to end her story.

8. "The Gun"

Realizing she has no place in society, Joe turns to organized crime and becomes a debt collector, utilizing her extensive knowledge of men, sex and sadomasochism. She describes a memorable house call to a man who she initially finds sexually unreadable. She ties him to a chair, strips him naked below the waist and tells him as many different dirty stories as she can think of. Upon further interrogation, Joe gleans that he is a deeply closeted pedophile. She takes pity on him and gives him a blow job. Joe explains to Seligman how she feels deep compassion for people born with a forbidden sexuality. She strongly identifies with the man's loneliness and status as a sexual outcast, and applauds him for going through life without acting on his aberrant desires.

Joe's superior, L (Willem Dafoe), recommends that she groom an apprentice and suggests the 15-year-old daughter of criminals. Joe is initially repulsed by the idea, but ends up sympathizing with the girl in question, P (Mia Goth). P is a vulnerable, lonely, damaged young girl who quickly latches herself onto Joe. The two of them click and form a special connection. Joe opens her heart to P and eventually invites her to move into her home. Their relationship develops a sexual dimension, and as P seems to mature, Joe hesitantly decides to teach her the ropes of her trade.

During one round of debt collection, Joe notices that they are at a house belonging to Jerôme (now played by Michaël Pas), and to make sure she is not seen, has P perform her first solo job. P drifts away from under her wing; late one night, Joe discovers that she has been seduced by Jerôme. In an alley in between her apartment and Jerôme's home, she waits for the two of them to emerge. She takes out her gun, but when she pulls the trigger, she forgets to rack the pistol. Jerôme viciously beats Joe and then has sex with P right in front of her, thrusting into P in the exact same way he once took her virginity. P urinates on her, and they leave her as she was at the beginning of the film.

In the present, Seligman ponders how the circumstances of Joe's life might have been due to differences in gender representation; all of the stigma, guilt and shame she felt for her actions made her fight back aggressively "like a man". Joe, who has until this moment been playing devil's advocate to Seligman's assumptions, finally feels at peace, having unburdened her story. She says she is too tired to go on and asks to go to sleep.

As Joe begins to drift off, Seligman silently returns. He climbs into the bed with his pants off and tries to penetrate her. The film cuts to black as Joe wakes up and, realizing what Seligman is doing, reaches for the gun. We hear Seligman protest as he justifies his actions, followed by a gunshot and the sounds of Joe fleeing the apartment.


A seven-track soundtrack was released digitally by Zentropa on 27 June 2014, containing a mix of classical and modern rock music, along with two sound clips from the prologue of the film.

Track listing

  1. Prologue part I – Kristian Eidnes Andersen
  2. "Führe mich" – from Rammstein's 2009 album Liebe ist für alle da
  3. Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, arranged for cello (César Franck) – Henrik Dam Thomsen and Ulrich Staerk
  4. Waltz from Jazz Suite No. 2 (Dmitri Shostakovich) – Russian State Symphony Orchestra
  5. "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639", chorale prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach – Mads Høck
  6. Prologue part II – Kristian Eidnes Andersen
  7. "Hey Joe" – Charlotte Gainsbourg

Songs not included

  1. Waltz from Jazz Suite No. 2 (Dmitri Shostakovich) – Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
  2. "Born to Be Wild" – Steppenwolf
  3. The Carnival of the Animals: XIII. Le Cygne (The Swan) (Camille Saint-Saëns) – Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
  4. Missa Hodie Christus natus est: I. Kyrie (Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina) – Schola Cantorum of Oxford
  5. Das Rheingold: Verwandlungsmusik (Richard Wagner) – Template:Ill
  6. Bagatelle in A minor, WoO 59 "Für Elise" (Ludwig van Beethoven) – Balázs Szokolay
  7. "Lascia ch'io pianga" (George Frideric Handel) – Template:Ill and Barokksolistene
  8. Requiem Mass In D minor, K. 626: I. Introitus: Requiem aeternam (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) – Slovak Philharmonic & Chorus
  9. "Burning Down the House" (live) – Talking Heads

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Nymphomaniac (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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