Review: Nymphomaniac Volumes I and II

Nymphomaniac Volume I & II
At first glance, much of Lars von Trier’s work seems disrespectful, antagonistic, self-aggrandizing, and unapologetically brutish. His latest piece,
Nymphomaniac, the nearly 5-hour-long story of a self-professed nymphomaniac, certainly felt this way prior to its release. Proclaiming the film to be hardcore pornography, calling out the public and media alike for their prudish reception of his concept, and generally baiting the entire cinematic community, it’s been a long road to Nymphomaniac’s two lengthy volumes. Going into the film, you anticipate relentless sex and little else. You almost resign yourself to no plot or point other than to force the public to get over its preconceived notions of sex. What we’re left with, however, is far more compelling.

What lies beneath the surface of Nymphomaniac is an accessible and seemingly honest portrayal of the type of person often perceived as little more than a deviant in society’s eyes. Here we find Trier’s two voices – his learned, rational self debating the nature of humanity and humility with his angry, impassioned, animalistic side – facing off in a kind of battle to save the soul of the so-called afflicted Joe. We’re shown the portrait of a woman who played carelessly with lust as a young adult, blossomed into a woman, and found herself taking ownership of her compulsion. In spite of the overall positive intention of Volume I, and the eye-opening, soul-crushing Volume II, the final message fits into Trier’s canon as antagonistic … with a point.

The story begins with Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) being found, beaten and filthy in a dark alley, by a man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård). Urging the wounded woman to call the police, he’s left with no choice but to nurse her himself when she refuses. Carrying her back to his lonely apartment, he changes her clothes, and lays her in bed. Once awake and alert, Joe rambles on about being a horrible person, attempting to convince the kindly Seligman that he should have left her there. Eventually, Joe finds herself defending her self-proclaimed villainy, and begins to tell her life’s story in an attempt to convince her saviour. Would you like to know more…?

Trailer: Nymphomaniac

“Would it be all right if I show the children the whoring bed?”

Here we go with the first trailer for Lars von Trier’s new film that is sure to be talked about steadily until its festival and commercial release. I’ll let the trailer, which is most assuredly *NSFW* speak for itself, there is a lot to unpack in terms of just how many buttons Trier is pushing in terms of voyeurism, sex, violence and the patience of his eventual film censors across the globe. Either way, have at it folks. The trailer is tucked under the seat.

A wild and poetic story of a woman’s journey from birth to the age of 50 as told by the main character, a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg). On a cold winter’s evening the old, charming bachelor, Seligman (Stellen Skarsgård), finds Joe beaten up in an alley. He brings her home to his flat where he cares for her wounds while asking her about her life. He listens intently as Joe over the next 8 chapters recounts the lushy branched-out and multifaceted story of her life, rich in associations and interjecting incidents.

“Most people don’t scream until I hit them…”

Would you like to know more…?

Friday One Sheet: Nymphomaniac Up Close

Even though this is just actually a ‘zoom-in’ of one of the previously release set of posters with each character in Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac giving their ‘O’ face, I cannot help but think that this image of Charlotte Gainsbourg in an extreme state echoes Naomi Watts in a radically different extreme state in the one-sheet for Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. It is just different enough to feel like a cheap knock-off as seen here.