Sitting here, about to write a review for Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (2014) my head is reeling, I do not know where to start. I want to talk about everything in this movie or barely mention anything about it and just tell you to watch it. I have been anticipating seeing this since 2011 when Melancholia came out. There is a lot of ground covered. This film is approximately 4 hours long and detailing everything that happens would take to long and I do not want to bore you; so I will do my best to write something insightful but I will not promise anything.
First off, there has been a lot of hype and controversy surrounding this film. Since its inception much blogging and talking has gone on among cinephiles and bloggers, about how this film will turn out. The controversy surround this film is there is un-simulated sex in the film. Porn actors were hired; to be super imposed on the actors since the actors would not perform real sex themselves. This un-simulated sex is to give the film an authentic feel. With this said if you were to go out now to the store and buy this film it would not be what you expected. There are two versions of the film, the cut and uncut version. So far as I know of the uncut version is not available in America. Volume I in its cut form is 117 minutes while the uncut version is 145 minutes long. I went online and read various opinions on those who say both versions at film festivals. From what I gathered the uncut version with the real sex in the film drags on, everyone seemed to prefer the cut version. Even with that said there is still plenty of sex and nudity through out the film. If this bothers you then stay far away from this film.
As stated before there is plenty of sex and nudity in this film, though I never felt it was exploitative, cheap or gimmicky. How can this be you ask? Well the story and motivation of the characters and situations are strong not cheap like in most horror movies where the, almost dead, teenagers go skinny-dipping. The next thing that comes to mind is: If Lars were to have made this movie with no sex or nudity, would it still work? If he would have done away with the sex and nudity he would have done an in-justice to the film, but because he shows the sex and nudity for what it is, harsh, selfish and with out love it. In Nymphomaniac the definition of love is jealousy plus lust equals love. How unflattering is this for “love”, but how true is it for some people.
“I discovered my cunt at the age of 2”, says Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) with what seems to be disdain for her sexuality. To be clear this film is about Joe who is a nymphomaniac or compulsive sex addict. Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) discovers Joe badly beaten in an alleyway. He brings her home and tends to her wounds while she recounts her life as nymphomaniac to him. While this is the basic premise to the film there is so much more going on, I cannot even begin to cover everything. It would also take multiply viewings to process everything.
In the special features Stellan Skarsgard mentions how this film, for Lars, seems to be whatever came to Lars’ head was put in the movie. I would agree. As I watch this movie unfold it seemed to be the pinnacle of everything going on in Lars’ head: almost as if his brain vomited everything that was running through it. Usually when this happens with other directors they have a hard time pulling things together and/or the film seems to be scattered or incomplete but that is not the case with Nymphomaniac. To me it seems the mastery and finesse of skill coming together.
Since the basic premise of the film has been already given I will only mention some of the high lights that stuck out for me. I forget what chapter this is in but Joe compares her vagina to that of electronic doors at a super market opening for anyone who passes by. This gives you a great metaphor for her Nymphomania.
Chapter 3 titled “Mrs. H” is my favorite section of the whole movie. Joes recounts how one of her “lovers” called Mr. H (Hugo Speer) did not want to leave her apartment and this was a problem. Joe had another “lover” coming over in ten minutes, so he has to figure out how to get ride of Mr. H. Mr. H is married. Joe desperate to get Mr. H out to the apartment: tells him that he does not really love her because he is still married to his wife and she (Joe) cannot fully have him. This is able to get Mr. H out of the apartment, but unforeseen by Joe Mr. H comes back minutes later having left his wife and kids.
Enter Mrs. H (Uma Thurman), with her kids, who have followed Mr. H to Joe’s apartment. Mrs. H with her kids enters Joe’s apartment full of desperation, betrayal, and a destroyed heart. She confronts Joe and her husband (Mr. H) in an awkward and compelling scene. Uma Thurman steals the scene away from everyone else. I felt uncomfortable yet could not stop watching what was going on in the scene felling this was the apex of volume I.
A comment I liked by Stellan Skarsgard’s character Seligman is that after Joe has recounted most of her story. He points out the fact: if Joe were a man would she be looked at as the same, as a compulsive sex addict or would she be looked at as someone who conquered many different loves. I liked this because it is true, if women go around acting like men fucking whoever they fancy they are considered whores or sluts but if it is a man going around fucking whomever he pleases it is considered normal.
Finally when I got to the end of the film I sat there with my jaw open, eyes wide and shocked. I got up and paced around my living room trying to process what I just watched but knowing I need to watch this again, and again and again because of the density of the film. I know this film is certainly in my top films of this year. I’ve waited all year to see this film and I was not disappointed.
With all this said I would encourage you to check out his film. If you thought the amazing Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999) was over the top with it’s portrayal of sex and nudity then I’m not sure what you will think of this movie; but if you are looking for a film that tackles taboo subject matter in an adult and thought provoking way check this film out. It has an all-star cast and great first time performance my Stacy Martin. Weather you love the films by Lars Von Trier or hate them, either way you will leave the movie thinking. This is certainly the farthest thing you can get from Transformers this year.