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Lars Von Trier’s two-part epic Nymphomaniac is available to stream online from March 1st. To celebrate, Padraic Coffey takes a look at it and other examples of works whose subject matter was too expansive to be contained in a single film.
1. Die Nibelungen.
Familiar to many as the director of the science-fiction epic Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen was a project of equal ambition; two silent fantasy films adapted by Lang’s then-wife Thea von Harbou from a thirteenth century poem written in Middle High German. Part one, Siegfried, tells the tale of a dragon slayer who is murdered, and while part two, Kriemhild’s Revenge, is the story of his wife’s retribution. Released in 1924, Die Nibelungen was reported to be a favourite film of both Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebels, which casts an unsettling aura over the film’s already otherworldly imagery.
2. Kill Bill.
After an obligatory pre-credit sequence, Kill Bill boldly introduces itself as ‘the 4th film by Quentin Tarantino’ (airbrushing from history his contribution to the lamentable Four Rooms). For some, it marked a downward shift in the output of one of America’s most popular filmmakers. With a budget far exceeding any of his previous efforts, Tarantino was given free reign to indulge his creative impulses on a martial arts epic. The result was divided into Volumes 1 and 2, to appease both Tarantino and notoriously interventionist producer Harvey Weinstein, and has so far grossed close to a billion dollars globally.
Debuting at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 – where lead Benicio del Toro scooped the Best Actor Award – Steve Soderbergh’s Che was originally a mammoth four hour plus biopic of the revolutionary born Ernesto Guevara. For its general release, Soderbergh divided the film into two parts, Part 1: The Argentine and Part 2: The Revolutionary. Jettisoning personal details of Guevara’s life to focus on his activism, it was met with widespread critical acclaim, and largely avoids being hagiographic towards a still controversial figure.
For anyone who accuses gangster films of glamorising their protagonists, Jean-François Richet’s Mesrine will come as a welcome antidote. Few films would have their ‘hero’ shove a gun into the mouth of the mother of his children when she threatens to call the police. Vincent Cassell gives a career-best performance as the legendary French criminal, piling on the pounds to play Mesrine in the latter stages of his life. Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Public Enemy Number 1 were released back to back in late 2008. Comparisons with Brian De Palma’s Scarface do it little justice: this is a far superior work.
Lars Von Trier was the first filmmaker to show unsimulated penetrative sex in a non-pornographic film – The Idiots in 1998 – so it is no surprise to see him push the envelope further with his latest two-part epic, Nymphomaniac: Volume I and Volume II. The story involves Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) retelling the story of her life as a sex-addict in eight chapters, after she is discovered unconscious in an alley by Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård). The starry cast includes Shia LaBeouf (no stranger to controversy himself, of late), Uma Thurman, Willem Dafoe, Jamie Bell and Christian Slater. Available to stream online on the same date as a limited theatrical release, Nymphomaniac may prove Von Trier’s most talked-about film to date.
This article originally appeared on Volta.ie