Von Trier's film starring young actress Stacy Martin and a
long list of actors as her sexual partners, drew long queues to
cinemas, even though it is being shown out of competition for
the festival's top prize to be awarded next Saturday.
Charlotte Gainsbourg appears in the second volume of the
extended version of the film, which will not be shown in Berlin.
Von Trier appeared with his cast for a photo shoot, wearing a
T-shirt that said "persona non grata" — an apparent reference to
his having been asked to leave the Cannes film festival three
years ago after saying that Hitler had had some good ideas. As
has been his custom since then, he did not attend the news
Asked if the director had been able to make the films he wanted,
producer Louise Veth said: "Yes he has done what he wanted to
until now so let's hope that it will continue.
"Of course this, with a sex topic, made it a little difficult
because of public rules. Sex is more difficult than violence — I
don't know why but that's how it is."
The pairing of the Danish director's steamy opus with the
German-made "Kreuzweg" ("Stations of the Cross") about a
Catholic family bringing up their daughter in a strict religious
environment, made for an odd juxtaposition, but one the film's
director, Dietrich Bruggemann, seemed to relish.
"OUR RELIGION IS CINEMA"
"Our religion is cinema and this is the cathedral and that's
what you do on Sunday. first you go to church service and then
you have some fun," Bruggemann told a news conference.
"Fun" would certainly not be a word for Bruggemann's harrowing
film which shows a charming, pretty and bright young girl's
descent into self-loathing, self-doubt and eventually anorexia
in a deeply religious German Roman Catholic family.
She is torn between the teachings of her priest, played by
Florian Stetter, who at catechism class tells teenagers that
rock and soul music are instruments of Satan and that "impurity
is the major sin of our time", and the attentions of a boy who
invites her to choir practice in a more liberal parish.
Maria, played by Lea van Acken, is attracted to the boy, but
also thinks music might help her autistic brother, who has yet
to speak a word at the age of 4.
Her stern and fanatical mother, played with Cruella de Vil
panache by Franziska Weisz, forbids it, even if most of the
music is Bach, because some of it is soul and gospel.
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The confrontation between Maria, who is ostracized
at her local school for her extreme religious views, and her
domineering mother escalates, with devastating consequences.
Bruggemann said he and his sister Anna, who wrote
the screenplay with him, were raised as Catholics and while their
family was not radical, he had come to know that extreme versions
existed, not just in Germany but elsewhere.
"If you go to the States all you hear is religion
and preaching," Bruggemann told a news conference. "The question was
what happens if ideology takes first place?"
The film follows the stations of the cross, with Maria cast in the
role of a female Jesus, and for the most part the camera stays still
throughout each scene, leading to long passages for the actors and
actresses to play without muffing their lines.
"Nymphomaniac" follows sex-addicted Joe, played by Martin in this
film and by Gainsbourg in the sequel, on an odyssey of
self-discovery that explores love, death and loneliness.
Viewers are spared nothing in the erotic scenes — which play out in
train toilets, in apartments, even in a hospital where her father
played by Christian Bale is dying — but the overall impression is of
a desperately sad emptiness.
Asked whether it was difficult acting in such a graphic film, Martin
paid tribute to von Trier's qualities as director. "He is very
trusting, he made the job very easy," she said.
Stellan Skarsgard, who has often worked with von Trier and in this
film plays a father confessor figure to whom Joe recounts her life,
echoed her comment, adding: "Lars is a very funny man."
While von Trier stayed away from the news conference, Shia LaBeouf,
who has starred in the "The Transformers" movies and in
"Nymphomaniac" plays one of Joe's lovers, caused a stir.
Asked how it felt to perform such sexually explicit scenes, LaBeouf
took an oblique swipe at journalists, suggesting they were like
"seagulls following the trawler to get sardines". He then walked
(Writing by Michael Roddy and Gareth
Jones; editing by Stephen Powell)
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