Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Studio Cancels All Screenings of 'No Good Deed' to Preserve Shocking Twist That It's Probably Terrible Studio Cancels All Screenings of 'No Good Deed' to Preserve Shocking Twist That It's Probably Terrible 'No Good Deed' Reviews: And the Twist Is That It's Good! (Not Really) 'No Good Deed' Reviews: And the Twist Is That It's Good! (Not Really) 'The Cobbler' Reviews: 'Makes Me Want to Upgrade Everything I've Ever Seen Half a Star' 'The Cobbler' Reviews: 'Makes Me Want to Upgrade Everything I've Ever Seen Half a Star' 'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them': 'Between Just Enough and a Bit Too Much' 'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them': 'Between Just Enough and a Bit Too Much' Daily Reads: The Death of Adulthood, the Future of Film in 'Snowpiercer' and More Daily Reads: The Death of Adulthood, the Future of Film in 'Snowpiercer' and More Kevin Smith Is OK With Critics Now Kevin Smith Is OK With Critics Now Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' 'Phoenix' Reviews: A Postwar-set Masterwork By Way of 'Vertigo' 'Phoenix' Reviews: A Postwar-set Masterwork By Way of 'Vertigo' 'While We're Young': Noah Baumbach's Xer-Millennial Comedy Ponders the Difference Between Sharing People's Lives and Stealing Them 'While We're Young': Noah Baumbach's Xer-Millennial Comedy Ponders the Difference Between Sharing People's Lives and Stealing Them Criticwire Classic of the Week: Federico Fellini's '8 1/2' Criticwire Classic of the Week: Federico Fellini's '8 1/2' 'The Duke of Burgundy': With Butterflies and BDSM, a Kinky Romance Woos Critics 'The Duke of Burgundy': With Butterflies and BDSM, a Kinky Romance Woos Critics 'Men, Women & Children': Frowny Face Emoticon 'Men, Women & Children': Frowny Face Emoticon Kevin Smith Turns to Horror With 'Tusk,' and the Results Are Insane: First Reviews Kevin Smith Turns to Horror With 'Tusk,' and the Results Are Insane: First Reviews 'The Expendables 3' Torrent and the Techno-Utopian Delusion 'The Expendables 3' Torrent and the Techno-Utopian Delusion Comparing Lena Dunham to Woody Allen Is Unfair — to Lena Dunham Comparing Lena Dunham to Woody Allen Is Unfair — to Lena Dunham Did 'Edge of Tomorrow' Just Get a New Title for Home Video? Did 'Edge of Tomorrow' Just Get a New Title for Home Video? 'The Maze Runner' First Reviews: Once More Around the Dystopian YA Block 'The Maze Runner' First Reviews: Once More Around the Dystopian YA Block Now Streaming: 'Ida,' 'Last Year at Marienbad' and 'A Woman is a Woman' Now Streaming: 'Ida,' 'Last Year at Marienbad' and 'A Woman is a Woman' Daily Reads: The Disgusting But Important 'Wetlands,' Comic Book Movies That Thankfully Never Happened and More Daily Reads: The Disgusting But Important 'Wetlands,' Comic Book Movies That Thankfully Never Happened and More 'The Counselor's Extended Cut Is Inspired Madness 'The Counselor's Extended Cut Is Inspired Madness

A Grand Unified Theory of Lars Von Trier

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire March 27, 2014 at 10:51AM

"Nymphomaniac" serves as a summary of Lars Von Trier's recurring obsessions, including his obsession with himself.
1
Lars von Trier's "Melancholia"
Lars von Trier's "Melancholia"

More than any art-house filmmaker alive, and maybe any filmmaker, period, Lars Von Trier is self-consciously involved in building his own brand. He may not have his own whiskey, but between his high-wire filmmaking and his bomb-throwing press conference persona, Trier public image is as much a front as the phony "Von" he added to his name (a move that itself self-consciously emulated the former Josef Sternberg.) 

At The Dissolve, David Ehrlich pulls on that thread by treating "Nymphomaniac" -- which he properly treats as a single film split into two parts for purely commercial reasons -- as a capstone to Trier's body of work, a career summation that deliberately tips its hat to his previous films as well as the controversy surrounding the Cannes press conference for 2011's "Melancholia." Most audaciously, Trier restages almost beat for beat the inciting incident of of 2009's "Antichrist," practically daring critics to accuse him of repeating himself.

A serial self-mythologizer whose gifts for inflating his own legend are on par with Werner Herzog's, von Trier has never wasted an opportunity to build his brand. His career has been defined by cultish doctrines, informal trilogies, priceless soundbites, and obvious periods of hero worship. (Has there ever been a less-needed title card than the one dedicating "Antichrist" to Andrei Tarkovsky?) His techniques insist that he's inextricable from his films, and always has been. He starred in 1987's "Epidemic" (as a version of himself), awarded himself a cameo as a Holocaust survivor in 1991's "Europa," then let his increasing notoriety take over. Audiences no longer have to see von Trier in his films to see von Trier in his films.

As Ehrlich points out, Trier has saved critics a step by routinely pre-packaging his films as part of a trilogy, although with the "U.S.A. -- Land of Opportunities" threefer -- "Dogville," "Manderlay," and the unrealized "Wasington" -- and his TV series "The Kingdom," he got derailed or lost interest along the way. Although "Nymphomaniac" has been called the third part of Trier's "Depression Trilogy," but it's also practically a trilogy in itself, split into two parts for theatrical release but running nearly half again as long in its five and a half hour director's cut. It's both a statement and a statement about statements -- and maybe a statement about that.

This article is related to: Nymphomaniac, Lars von Trier


E-Mail Updates