Plot: A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac recounts her erotic experiences, from her very early experiences up to age 50, to the man who saved her after a beating.
**THIS REVIEW IS BASED UPON THE US CUT, NOT THE DIRECTOR’S CUT**
**REVIEW CONTAINS SOME STRONG LANGUAGE AND GRAPHIC IMAGERY**
Why is it when someone makes a movie about nymphomania, sex addiction, they have to put us through the emotional wringer and make us feel uncomfortable depressed by the time the credits roll? Master modern auteur filmmaker Steve McQueen did the same with his harrowing, thoroughly depressing, and human 2011 opus “Shame”, and now Lars von Trier has brought us his take on the human nature of sex addiction with his two-part explicit, gut-wrenchingly depressing, and somehow still empowering new film.
Now, you may think i’m nutty when I call a film entitled “Nymphomaniac” empowering, but just hear me out if you will. This movie is about a very serious topic, sex addiction, yes – however, it is also a story about a woman unshamefully reclaiming her given, and deserved, right to sex, to a sexual identity, and to sexual feelings. Yes, it is an extremely explicit film – what with shots and sequences full of full frontal nudity including close ups, masturbation, penetration, oral sex, anal sex, cum spitting, and BDSM (even in the US cut) – but a very important one, an empowering movie that shows that women too should be allowed to express their sexual desires and wants any way they feel comfortable with (as long as it isn’t in an illegal matter or in a way that is harmful in the long run to herself or others), and hopefully this will open the eyes of more great filmmakers who dare to be brave enough to tackle such a tough topic.
But I digress from the topic at hand a little there, as this movie is also the polar opposite of empowering in many ways than one. Yes, what I said is true about how this movie, in my opinion, could be viewed as one about a woman reclaiming her sexuality, however it is also a very detaching story of how someone’s life is built up around and unraveled around addiction issues. The duel themes, in my view at least, are very dark yes but they coincide expertly together.
Another point I wanted to make is a point against the classic “art versus pornography” argument. “Nymphomaniac” is a sexually explicit film in many ways than one, but it is absolutely the furthest thing from a pornographic movie. Even though this is a very very graphic movie, it’s not a pornographic movie for three huge reasons; #1 – This movie actually has a story, a plot. True, some porn movies have a story but not a story with realistic and deeply complex themes. #2 – This movie accurately depicts the plight of the human condition with style, grace, and integrity, and you can feel it deep in the pit of your gut that very wrenching and hollow feeling of emptiness and soullessness when Joe’s addiction begins to worsen and her life begins to unravel itself. #3 – The most important of all: this movie is not erotic or arousing in the least bit. Pornography is made with the intent to turn people on, to make them feel aroused, and unless you’re a sadist or a seriously sick individual this movie will just depress the hell out of you like it did me.
Now what we have here is another in a line of brilliant woks by master filmmaker Lars von Trier, but does this film compare well to the others in the so-called “Depression Trilogy”, and are both volumes as equally well-crafted? Well, yes and no. The greatest film of the trilogy in my eyes was “Melancholia”, so what we have her in these two volumes represents the second best and the weakest of the trilogy. “Nymphomaniac” Volumes 1 and 2 were expertly written and directed by von Trier in a way only he could; I could see no one else being able to direct a film so gut-wrenching, so explicit, so depressing, and yet so vibrantly and realistically human like he did, and if someone had attempted to make this project other than von Trier I very highly doubt it would be half as great. The characters are so sharp and well developed that every emotion, every piece of dialogue, every iota of pain and pleasure they’re feeling jumps right off the screen and jolts right into our hearts.
Does this all mean that “Nymphomaniac” is a flawless film as a whole? Not exactly. While Volume 1 was a masterpiece and as close to flawless of a film von Trier’s ever made (besides only “Melancholia” and “Dancer In The Dark”), with its wild kinetic energy, extremely dark humor, and intelligent story, Volume 2 suffers from odd pacing issues in spots, a few dull moments that don’t quite spark in comparison with the first volume, and a few jarring tonal shifts. But that’s not to say it’s a bad film because it’s the furthest thing from a bad film, but it doesn’t quite live up to the first volume. However, I do highly commend it not only for continuing the story in a very great way considering, and for having a shocking conclusion that just fits the film as a whole like a glove.
Even though a movie has a master filmmaker and writer at its helm, it isn’t much without a fantastic cast of gifted actors. And Lars sure picked a hell of a cast, who include: Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Uma Thurman, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Shia LaBeouf, Willem Dafoe, and newcomer Stacy Martin. The whole entire lot of them gave the utmost tremendous performances (especially newcomer Martin and Stellan Skarsgard), not a bad performance in the entire film, but there is one I absolutely must must must must must must must single out: the brave performance by graceful actress Charlotte Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg’s performance as Joe (as an adult) was unbashfully raw, emotionally draining, and unlike anything I have ever seen before in my entire life. I’ve seen some truly great performances, but hers was one of the top of the top greatest performances I have ever witnessed. If someone is able to perform a role like this traditionally, more power to them; but she took the extra mile, turning in a very raw, very explicit, and very brilliant performance that damn near took my fucking breath away. If she doesn’t at least get nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars, in my honest opinion, it’ll be a fucking travesty.
In conclusion, Lars von Trier’s trilogy-closing opus “Nymphomaniac” is definitely not for the easily disturbed, easily depressed, prudish, or easily offended, but if you decide to watch this movie you will embark on a daring journey down the spiraling path of addiction.
My Rating: Volume 1 – 10/10; Volume 2 – 9/10
Thanks so much if you were able to get through this long ranting review, and thanks for reading my blog!