Wednesday, March 26, 2014


NYMPHOMANIAC VOLUME I is the beginning of the end of Lars von Trier’s “depression trilogy” of films; his trio of movies which boldly and unapologetically exposes and exploits the depressive nature of us humans and the things we do to cope. It is a story about one woman’s method of coping which turns into an obsession with sex, and despite how skin is bared, the film does have more going for it than just people doing the deed.
Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is found laying the street by Seilgman (Stellan Skarsgard). When she refuses medical attention, Seilgman takes her to his home, where she begins to recount her life’s obsession with sex, starting with her youth (her younger self played by Stacy Martin), and including her parents (Christian Slater and Connie Nielsen), and her first lover (Shia LaBeouf).

Set within the framework of Joe telling her life’s story to her new friend, NYMPHOMANIAC guides us through her sexual journey…from discovering her body at a young age, to a loving relationship with her father, to a testy relationship with her mother, to the ups and downs she encounters with her first lover. The film bounces back and forth from the present day to the past, with most of the scenes from her past life involving her sexual discoveries and adventures; each one holding a significant place in her life. What makes it all work is that the exchanges between Joe and Seilgman are mesmerizing. The two couldn’t be more different; Joe is depressed and feeling like love and life has chewed her up and spit her out, while Seilgman is optimistic and still in love with life. The two bounce off of each other’s experiences and stories, and director Lars von Trier lets his characters find allegory and meaning through simplest things; from dining utensils to music to art…everything they talk about has a deeper meaning than face value, and makes NYMPHOMANIAC a fascinating watch.
Lars von Trier has put together a very unique looking-film. It is beautiful and tragic to look at as the scenes change from grim to bright in the blink of an eye. Pacing is a slow burn, but the pulse is a steady one and there are no moments of boredom. The film is very fun in places as von Trier inserts some visual aids via superimposed graphics to help get some of the analogies across. The amount of sex in the film (and there is a lot of it) is sometimes filmed artfully, and sometimes filmed in its rawest and animalistic form…depending on the situation. Nudity and full-frontals are everywhere and enough to make anyone squirm in their seat. But what’s really unsettling about the film is that once again, von Trier gets beyond the “how” of the matter and into the “why”. He manages to get past all of the humping and expose the human nature behind it all…and in the process expose a part of us that we’d rather not deal with.

Acting is tremendous. Charlotte Gainsbourg has never looked more tragic or defeated, and Stellan Skarsgard is his usual stellar-self. Christian Slater turns in a surprising successful turn as the father, and Shia LaBeouf, whose work amounts to an extended cameo, nails his accent nicely. An unrecognizable Uma Thurman shows up in the tragic role of a scorned wife and nearly steals the show in just what may be her best performance yet. The film belongs to newcomer Stacy Martin, who as a young Joe is fearless in her performance.
NYMPHOMANIAC was originally cut as a five-hour film, but for theatrical reasons was split into two parts. This first part, or volume, ends on a note which seems abrupt but opens up some fascinating possibilities for what’s next. The film still manages to stand on its own as a thought-provoking and artful character piece. Don’t let the title scare you away; despite all the sex, this is a film more for the mind than the body.


No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.