The tragedy of otherness. Reflection on Lars von Trier’s film “Nymphomaniac”

UDC 791.4 

Mikhail N. Epstein

Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.
ORCID ID 0000-0003-1544-837X

Natalya Shelkovaya

Volodymyr Dahl East Ukrainian National University, Severodonetsk
ORCID ID 0000-0001-7303-0719


Keywords: nymphomania, love, sensuality, insensitivity, manic vitality, symbols, somatic cognition.

Abstract. The authors of the article, using a transdisciplinary method of research from the standpoint of cultural studies, art history, philology, philosophy, religious studies, psychology and social philosophy, try to comprehend and identify the main meanings and symbols of Lars von Trier’s film “Nymphomaniac”, to find the main purpose of this film. At the same time, M. Epstein draws attention, first of all, to the aspect of the pathological sensuality of the main character – Joe, her nymphomania and, appealing to a woman and a man before the fall in the Bible, whom God blessed to be fruitful and multiply, shows an unusual angle of sexual relations, gradually reveals stepping the way to love and holiness through debauchery and makes a shocking conclusion, which at the same time has the right to exist, about the purifying role of hellish debauchery for gaining holiness. N. Shelkovaya pays more attention to the disclosure of symbols in the film: trees, dry leaves, a mountain, Joe’s climb up the mountain in search of his soul tree, the number 8, Seligman’s yard as a crypt, Joe’s son’s exit to the balcony, somatic self-knowledge. As a result the authors come to the general conclusion that the film by Lars von Trier “Nymphomaniac” is not a pornographic, but a deeply philosophical and psychological film, showing a distorted path to love, God, Heaven, True Love in a distorted insensitive society, which only irrational love can save from destruction.

Authors Biography.

Mikhail N. Epstein, Samuel Candler Dobbs professor of Cultural Theory and Russian Literature, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.

Natalya Shelkovaya, Ph.D. (Philosophy), associate professor, Volodymyr Dahl East Ukrainian National University, Severodonetsk.


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PDF (Ukrainian).

Published: July 15, 2022.

Vol 22 No 2 (2022).