Von Trier Surrenders Control Of NYMPHOMANIAC, Ninety Minutes Removed From Final Cut

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
Is there a new controversy brewing over Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac? There could well be. The Nymphomaniac conversation has thus far revolved around the film's extreme sexual content but the real drama seems to be occurring behind the camera rather than in front of it with word that - for the very first time in his entire career - Von Trier has ceded final cut of the film with the result being a full hour and a half of material being removed from his preferred version.

Stories about multiple versions of Nymphomaniac have existed since the film was still little more than an idea, with Von Trier initially saying that he intended to release both a sexually explicit version and something a little more toned down. Over time the idea of two versions was shelved, only to reappear when word hit that the Von Trier cut was coming in long. Very long. With reports ranging anywhere from five and a half to seven hours, with speculation rising that the film would be released in theatrical and an extended TV miniseries version. That's not happening, either.

What is? Well according to a report in Denmark's Ekko magazine - seen early by The Hollywood Reporter - Von Trier got the film down to a five and a half hour version and has now given over control of final cut to producer Peter Albaek Jensen who intends to cut it down to four hours for release in a pair of two hour installments. Which all sounds very civilized until Jensen acknowledges that "the short version is against Lars' own will." Jensen goes on to say that Von Trier has accepted the changes "because he understands market mechanisms" but Von Trier has never particularly cared about the market so it seems safe to assume that's Peter talking and not Lars.

As for Von Trier's own thoughts on the matter, the director placed himself under a voluntary gag order after the Cannes press conference fiasco with Melancholia and he's generally stuck to it. We'll see if that holds in the face of this latest news.
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  • Kieran

    Lars Von Trier shouldn't accept that.
    The market is always against the public and the public does not care about the market (especially when talking about real cinema...).
    This edit won't be a genuine Lars Von Trier movie and we will need to hope for a director's cut...

  • Err ... the market fundamentally IS the public. What you're talking about with your 'real cinema' comment is a very small segment of the general public and the reality is that segment is not enough to support any sort of sustainable business model. When you go through sales numbers that's abundantly clear and whatever else may be going on behind the scenes here (and given that it's Von Trier, I'm sure that there's a lot) this is a decision that was made by a company that Von Trier himself is a full and founding partner in because following Von Trier's plan would be financially devastating. Zentropa's not on particularly sound financial footing right now ...

  • Kieran

    Lars Von Trier is supposed to be an author and the public expects director's cut. Anything else is rubbish, maybe he shouldn't have made that movie ?

    The market is never the public and the Market already killed Hollywood. The market makes money, it doesn't make art or entertainment.

    Anyway, the market only leaves room for huge crappy blockbuster (Pacific Rim, The Wolverine, etc.). Today a Sergio Leone wouldn't be able to become the famous director's he is.

  • Who are you to decide what the public should like and who is worthy to count? The fact that you don't share the taste of the majority in no way makes you better or superior to them, nor does it put you in a position to speak for "the public".

    I love Von Trier but he's fundamentally a niche director with a very small audience. He's had the freedom to do whatever he wants throughout his entire career provided he understands that and he keeps the numbers in line. In this case he made an expensive movie by indie standards - 11 million - and his investors need to have at least a chance of making that back if he's going to continue in his privileged position. And delivering a five hour movie that very definitely will NOT do that - no distributor is going to eat two screening slots for a single showing of a film by a niche director if they have other options, and they always have other options in the massively crowded marketplace - so, yeah, Lars has dug this hole for himself.

  • Kieran

    I'm wondering were in my text I'm putting myself as superior to the public? Why are you deforming my comment like that?

    Obviously you want to be the Market specialist here ;-)

    For me the market is business and it is contrary to entertainement or a great movie. Blockbusters are like junk food and Lars Von Trier is the fine restaurant. I'm not interested in Von Trier making a Big Mac.

    As I said before, with the way you are thinking we would never have a Sergio Leone or a Lars Von Trier... except that Shia LaBeouf would star in all produced movies ;-)

  • The moment you start to define your own tastes as representing 'the public' you've crossed that line. That's clearly not the case. You can speak for yourself all you want, but don't put your words, tastes and ideals into the mouths of millions of people who don't share them.

    There's ample space for Von Trier in the world and I'd be sad if he and his like were ever squeezed out - I've seen literally everything he's ever done, including his student shorts - but the reality is that film IS a business and you can't ignore that aspect of it. This is a basic reality that comes with spending millions of dollars of someone else's money to make a movie. Anyone who wants to make art unencumbered by financial pressure should be taking up poetry or painting, not film. To this point of his career Von Trier has generally figured out a way to balance the opposing forces of art and commerce but this time he's tipped over the edge by insisting on a cut that is obviously not financially feasible and he's lost control as a result. It's a completely predictable situation that he should have seen coming and, at the end of the day, I'd say this is entirely his fault. He should have known better. If he'd made a five hour movie for a million and a half or two million, that would have been fine. He'd have gotten away with it. But making one for eleven million is just foolish, there's obviously no way that existing distribution models will support that. And given that this is fundamentally an actor's piece, it also strikes me as incredibly wasteful. What is he spending that money on?

    And equating Von trier to Leone is utterly false. They have nothing in common other than both being quite good. Leone was a populist filmmaker working in a hugely popular genre with the biggest stars in the world. He was making movies 100% intended for the mass audience. Von Trier has never once played that game.

  • Kieran

    I'm done with you. You are just deforming continually my comments and you are just plainly missing the point just because you want to be right and you are plainly offensiv about that.

    I was a long time Twitchfilm fan, because I thought that you were thinking differently than Aintitcool kind of blogs.

    You aren't thinking at all, you are just bashing around.

  • I'm not here to hold your hand and stroke your ego and tell you that you're wonderful and right about all things when you're clearly not. So long.

  • Kieran

    I wouldn't let you hold my hand nor stroke anything.

  • Hee hee ...

  • Kieran

    Hello Mister Market,

    Obviously you know a lot about the market and movies, but you need an advice : before answering read the comments. Your answer is very well written, but you just seem to not want to understand.

    Sergio Leone's first western was only shown in one single Roman theatre and it was a phenomenon, but only after a few months. Even as a "populist filmaker", as you said, in today's the market he would never be able to do a second movie.

    And, yes, I consider myself as a part of the public. All I want to see is good movies and I don't care if it is an author's work or an entertainment... as long as.

    Have a look at American movies. The great Director's are following the market more and more and their talent is vanishing.

    Maybe the simpliest way to say what I meant all along is that the market is about money, but all the public wants is art.

  • 'The public' doesn't want art. Categorically not. Not in any significant numbers. Right now the public wants Thor 2. 'The public' is sucking up tickets for that thing as fast as the cinemas can print them. You may not like the same things that the overwhelming majority of people do - that's completely your prerogative and people here, myself included, generally share your tastes - but that in no way allows you to speak for the majority when the majority is speaking just fine for themselves.

    I understand you just fine. You're just completely, overwhelmingly, and very demonstrably wrong. The entire basis of your argument is completely wrong.

  • One further note and I'm done:

    You're talking here about 'the public' wanting Von Trier when, in fact, you're talking about a film that - if it performs to the absolute maximum of its potential - will sell, perhaps, if it does very, very well, 2% of the tickets that Thor 2 will sell. Which of these movies represents the true tastes of 'the public'?

    [I've just checked this week's box office numbers and given that Thor 2 has now grossed nearly half a billion dollars worldwide and isn't nearly done, I should adjust that percentage down to 1.5%, though I have a hunch that by the time Thor 2 is done, 1% would be a lofty goal for Nymphomaniac to hit.]

  • Kieran

    You just demonstrated to my why the market is opposite the public. The public is not interested in the selling, if the public wants to see Thor it is because the market made the adverts and put out the copies in thousands of theatres. Today, with the multiplex culture, the public often goes to see a movie and they decide what they want to see in front of the theatre and slowly people don't go that much into the theatres.

    It is not the downloading that is killing cinema, but the market. Sadly, there are more actual interesting movies to download than to see in the theatres.

    This summer's blockbusters are quite a good example. Pacific Rim, The Wolverine, Man of Steel, World War Z, Star Trek 2, etc. They all are poorly written and also poorly directed... is this what the public wants ?

    I don't think so.

    Now, yes they are engrossing some money, so what ?

    Does this make these movies better ?

    Nope

  • And, again, you are retreating to a position that says "the people that agree with me are 'the public' and are smarter, wiser and more attractive and therefore should be taken more seriously than the mindless masses who buy up tickets by the millions only because they are 'the market'". It's a fundamentally flawed and arrogant position. People buy the tickets to the things they want to buy the tickets to.

    Why do you think 'the public' DOESN'T want things that they are out there actively buying in MASSIVE numbers? Clearly they want it, or they would not buy it.

    Your position is not based on fact or reality but on your desire to position yourself and your own tastes as somehow superior to the mindless masses.

  • Kieran

    I really don't see how different we are, because I'm absolutely not positionning myself as superior. I'm only trying to say that the market is wrong and is producing more and more products without taste, nor soul and that the public as a whole deserves better and want to see better movies.

    On the other side, I would say that your market obsession is your own way to position yourself as having a superior understanding and you are just hiding behind numbers. Sad, your writing is clear and good, now you should learn to read.

    With your argumentation, you probably think that the best Indiana Jones is the fourth one and that it is what the public wants.

    I simply disagree.

  • Again, as you try to defend yourself you're openly saying that people are tasteless and therefore invalid. No, their tastes are just different than yours. If the market was wrong, then Thor 2 wouldn't have grossed half a billion dollars so far. People are buying the tickets because it's what they want to see. When Hollywood pours bags of money into making and marketing something that people don't particularly want to see, then they don't go see it and the film bombs. It happens all the time. People are not sheep being led mindlessly to consume whatever some master controller pushing a button somewhere tells them to see. If it worked the way you're suggesting then no film would EVER bomb.

    You are not now and never will be in a position to say what 'the pubic' wants to see in the future because 'the public' is not some uniform monotonous mass, there is no one thing that it wants to see, the majority of people has clearly never shared your particular tastes at any point in history, and your distaste for the tastes of the majority blinds you to obvious reality. It is, however, VERY easy to see what 'the public' wants to see right now and what they've wanted to see in the past because they've made their own tastes known through their buying habits. They vote with their dollars. And your dismissal of that just reeks of school marm-y, morally superior, "Oh, they just don't know what's good for them. Good thing I'm here to show them the error of their ways." It's cultural colonialism. The natives are quite capable of directing their own path, thanks.

    Yes, masses of people wanted a fourth Indiana Jones movie (though it would have done better if it were a better film), just as they've wanted every single Transformers movie. That's reality. I'm not 'hiding behind numbers', it's impossible to hide behind fact. This is what things are. You, however, are making dismissive pronouncements of taste that you cannot even begin to substantiate on any level beyond "I think what people are buying is so obviously bad that the only explanation for why so many people like things that I hate so much is that they were brainwashed into doing so."

    Occam's Razor, man. Look it up. It's a logical principal that would put you in good stead here. There's no need to dream up some supposed ulterior system when the reality is plainly obvious and staring you in the face.

  • Kieran

    You should read some Kant about Aristotle. You'll see that your Occam's razor is an artificial logic, a long-time biased logic system that only works if the logical elements are fitting before applying of this logic.

    As you said, there's no need to dream up some supposed ulterior system when the reality is plainly obvious and staring you in the face.

    Anyway, I happen to have a few French, Italian and Swiss producers as friends and you know what ?

    They work with people and passion. They don't follow any market system and they produced even some rewarded international success.

    They wouldn't know what to do with a Lars Von Trier movie deprieved from it's Director's cut.

    So only Nymphomania may tell us who was right and I wouldn't be surprised if Lars Von Trier finally gets his Director's cut to be released.

  • And what percentage of the general population has ever seen anything that any of your producer friends have made and / or given a shit about same? Remember, you claim to be speaking on behalf of 'the public' here, not producers that are suckling at the government teat to subsidize their projects.

    [Side note: I've got a degree in religious studies with all but a couple unrelated electives in a second degree in philosophy, and did a year in applied organic chemistry. I've read plenty of Kant. Like him. And name dropping doesn't make your premise any less flawed and / or arrogant.]

  • Kieran

    I don't care about the percentage of the general population that has ever seen anything from these friends, but the participated on some international release The Intouchables, Gomorra, Skirt Day and Vinyan.

    I still dont understand why you think I'm speaking on behalf of the public, I'm only expressing my point of view as a very small part of the public.

    Now I didn't understand what you meant by "producers that are suckling at the governement teat to subsidize their projects". Could you tell me what you were meaning by that ?

    [Side note: You started the name dropping, now you are CV dropping and I'm the arrogant one ? You know what I also studied in philosophy, arts and management... so what ? ]

  • Post number one: "the public does not care about the market." You come right out of the gate speaking for 'the public', not speaking for yourself.

    Post number two: "the public expects director's cut ... the market is never the public." Again, speaking on behalf of 'the public', not yourself.

    Post number four: "All the public wants is art." Again, speaking on behalf of 'the public', not yourself.

    At least now you're being honest and saying openly that you don't actually care about the public, which has been abundantly clear from the start. If you believe in your position then speak for yourself instead of trying to put your words into the mouths of millions of others to try and lend them false validity.

    And I name dropped where, exactly? By suggesting you look up Occam's Razor? Whooo ... Occam .. there's a big, impressive name. Name dropping by advocating for the use of logic, how dare I?

    As for the government teat, go ask your producer friends where their money comes from. It's dominantly government subsidy, all of which exist as make work projects to prop up an industry incapable of supporting itself because they don't make movies that enough people in the public care about enough to support via ticket sales. Nobody's playing with their own cash because they'd be out of business in a heartbeat if they did. The results are often good and there's a ton of worthwhile work that exists because of these programs but to equate "I got money from Flanders Image, or the DFI, or the DDD," to "this is what the public wants" is laughably false. If that's what the public wanted, none of those programs would be necessary in the first place.

  • As an interesting side note to this, David Cronenberg has been quoted multiple times saying that his longevity and the degree of creative freedom he has had over his career has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with the fact that he has delivered every film he has ever done on schedule and under budget.

    If you respect the financial aspect of the industry you are rewarded with creative freedom. If you don't, this happens. It's pretty simple.

  • On a somewhat related note, I just went looking for some figures on other films (Melancholia grossed 11 million worldwide, incidentally, a performance that would leave this one in a loss position) and HOW THE HELL did Lars spend eleven million dollars making Antichrist?!? Where on earth did that money go? It's two actors in one location!

  • Hiroaki Johnson

    Stop motion foxes don't come cheap, sir.

  • Apparently not. And I'm beginning to understand why there was a bit of a stink around Zentropa's finances earlier this year ...

  • wonnie dahlberg

    i still think that "i'm a nazi" interview was hilarious

  • Bos

    WTF NO! I want the complete movie! This sux!!

  • Frederik Andersen

    Looks like Aalbæk is Weinstein-ing his favorite cash cow.

    I kinda get it tho. It would be very very hard to make money on a five and a half hour sex art film. I'd watch it, but I don't know many non-cinephiles who would.

    Four hours or five hours, it's still gonna be the most awkward cinema experience ever.

  • I wouldn't say that's an accurate comparison at all as Von Trier is a full partner and co-owner of Zentropa. Whatever's going on behind the scenes must be pretty interesting ...

  • KartoffelKongen

    Will von Triers full five and a half hour cut be released at a later time?

  • It doesn't sound like there are plans for that from what's being said right now.

  • KartoffelKongen

    What a shame! I can't really imagine Lars accepting those terms, to be honest.

    EDIT: The original article (http://www.ekkofilm.dk/artikle..., only says that the release date of the director's cut is uncertain, and it's not gonna be at Cannes, ("Hvornår Triers egen, lange version bliver vist for verden, er endnu uklart. Peter Aalbæk Jensen afviser, at det bliver på festivalen i Cannes til maj.")

    The DC will probably be released in the future, can't see any reason why it shouldn't really.
    Fingers crossed anyway.

  • Matthieu Moerlen
  • David Palmer

    Now that he's got an editor he just needs a scriptwriter.

  • He's a pretentious jackass. Any director not understanding that you cannot release a 5 hour film is about as stupid and full of himself as they come.

  • Thomas Zack

    Yep. Goodfellas was three hours but it didn't feel long at all. Is this film going to be as great as that? Hell no!

  • The quality doesn't even factor in to a conversation like this from a financial perspective. It's pure timing. If you have a five hour movie you immediately cut the number of possible screenings per day in half, which means you cut your audience in half even if there are people who want to see it.

  • Kurt

    I would happily watch a 5 hour LvT film.

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