It is easy to say that Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac” is about sex. Certainly both parts of the film feature a lot of sex, but that doesn’t mean that’s what the story is truly about. Of course, that leaves one to ask what it is all about if not sex.
That was the first question I put to Christian Slater and Stacy Martin when I spoke to them. They told me it was about loneliness and searching. As Martin put it, the sex, “Comes into the story rather than being the story.”
If you watch, you’ll see that for the vast majority of the interview, the graphic nature of the movie didn’t come into our discussion, but I did return to it for my final question, just in terms of whether or not any of those scenes gave Martin or Slater pause prior to signing on. The short answer is, only for the briefest of moments. Martin stated, “I just wanted to make sure that I was protected as an actress, and as a woman, that I didn’t actually have to do anything sexual and that was very clear with Lars and I told him and everyone knew.” Slater, who has different sorts of graphic scenes said that in the end, even if he did pause, “It’s all about the trust that you have for the director.”
As for what the movie is about, were I pressed, I might argue that “Nymphomaniac” is about relationships and cares less for the specific nature of the relationships than the question of how we interact with others and then how those interactions, in turn, affect us. Am I right? I didn’t broach that specific theory with Slater and Martin, but the actress did tell me, “What Lars does is that he shows you a universe and he doesn’t really give you the answers, the answers come to you if they come, and its your own answers and that’s what’s so great.” I am going to say that means that I am absolutely correct.
In the end, both actors seem to feel as though there is a lot to chew on in “Nymphomaniac: Volume I,” which opened in theaters this past Friday and, presumably, there will be just as much in “Volume II,” which opens on April 4th.