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“Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 & 2” – Review (POSITIVE)

March 27, 2014

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 7.49.00 PMSoon as you hear Lars Von Trier’s name in the news of cinema, cinephiles ears open with wide-eyed curiosity. The infamous Danish filmmaker doesn’t hold back any punches when it comes to his particular style of storytelling. From hopes to failures of fame in “Dancer in the Dark” to the mass carnage of “Dogville” “Anti-Christ”, it’s safe to say that Von Trier is not everyone’s favorite director. To be perfectly frank, you need to be in the right mindset to get through at least one of his films. I also feel that you need to be a certain kind of person to remotely enjoy one of his cinematic outtings.

Whenever I watch one of his films, I find several emotions running through my mind; disgust, heartbreak, sometimes a few laughs, I cringe, I feel scared, disturbed, happy-to-sad in the blink of an eye, there is so much going on. So, why do I continue going back? One could say the same about any directors work, we like watching their film simply to feel something. [Steven] Spielberg may give you this whimsical feeling when you watch “E.T.” for the first time, or you may submerse yourself in the dark, grungy world David Fincher creates in “Se7en”.

Lars Von Trier knows how to cut through strong emotions, more so than many veteran directors (still) working to this day. To me, I see Lars as the kind of director who has a certain, ‘I don’t care what you think of me’-attitude, then without remorse, he shows off through his films. He knows he’s not a Joss Whedon or a Michael Bay, he doesn’t need to prove anything to a wide populous, because there’s nothing to prove. Film is an art form, much like painting, sculpting, or photography, in any form art is left for interpretation, that’s all he does, leaves you interpreting what he’s trying to say.

I saw “Melancholia” in a packed house a few years ago, by the time the movie reached it’s beautiful climax, I was the only one left in the theater. Granted the theater I was in housed 45 seats, and most of the audience memebers were the classic Boca-Blue Hair Retirees, but it goes to show you that some films are not for everyone. I think his latest endeavor; “Nymphomaniac” will end up being one of those films that will be discussed in film theory class, along side films by Goddard or Bergman.

“Nymphomaniac” is without question the most talked about film in the last year, many feel that due to the subject matter, it’s nothing than a poor excuse to be called art house-pornography. Has anyone ever seen/hear of “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom”? I’ll leave it up to the viewer to decide what kind of film it is, but for me, I found this to be a rare comedy (or dramedy). This is Lars Von Trier branching out into comedy, the sex part isn’t necessarily funny, but the story of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and how she tells her story IS funny.

Joe is a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac, one night, after being nearly beaten to death, a preserved-quiet man, named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) finds her, and nurses to health in his apartment.  When she wakes, Seligman is curious to know what exactly happened to Joe. She recounts her erotic experiences from her teenage youth (Stacy Martin) to the woman she becomes this very day. In comes the fascinating aspect of this film, the four-hour conversation between Joe & Seligman.

If there’s anything to take away from this movie, is the focus between the two of them, here you have this sexed crazed loon, who explains herself, not defending, but explains the necessity of her lust. She has sex simply for the lust, not for the need. What kind of person is this? For Seligman, he sees her sexual odyssey in the allegorical forms of literary and natural experiences from his own life. An example, he sees a similar connection between the acts of cunnilingus to fly-fishing. I won’t spoil too much of what other allegorical connection Seligman finds in Joe’s acts, because it leads to an important purpose by the end of “Vol. 2”.

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 7.51.40 PMAnd there lies a problem for me, the ending. For some reason, I just find the ending to sit well at all, not because it’s disturbing, but the fact that it’s just too damn obvious, and it doesn’t really paint any new light in Joe’s character. She’s not supposed to learn anything, or change, she is who she is, and that’s a major character flaw I liked about her. It’s the conclusion with Seligman, again, I’d rather not give anything away, but I’m sure you’re starting to figure out where I’m going with this. The thing is, most of Lars Von Trier’s films hold little to no repeat value, mainly because they’re such emotionally trying films, however,

I can find myself revisiting this film, not because this is perhaps his most light-hearted film (and that’s saying something believe me), but I feel like there’s something within this four epic that I’m missing. Something hidden within Seligman’s allegorical comparisons of anal sex to 18th century poetry there’s a clear message. This is probably the hardest film I’ve had to review yet; I won’t damn myself even at the tender age of 25 (going on 26) I’m still learning about the world of cinema. For now I’ll take what I can take, I’m sure down the road I’ll re-watch the film, but for now, I need to let it settle for a while, and perhaps one night I’ll wake in a cold sweet with a sudden realization.


Aaron Shore, is a contributing blogger for the film sites of Hudak on Hollywood & Midnight Reviews.

You can follow Aaron on Twitter @DoubleAAProd

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