*Volume 1 and Volume 2 of NYMPHOMANIAC screened at my nearest cinema as a single session with an intermission so I have reviewed the two volumes as a collective whole.*
Volume 1: 4 ½ stars
Volume 2: 3 ½ stars
In a word:
Volume 1 – Voyeuristic Volume 2 – Depraved
Director and writer Lars Von Trier’s erotic epic journeys between an artistic analysis of psychologically complex characters and an overindulgent experiment in discomforting shock and overload, the latter being more predominant in volume 2.
Guided by any other hand, this would’ve been an irredeemable smorgasbord of gratuitous excess, but Lars Von Trier knows how to handle controversial subject matter with appropriate direction and tone – although he may get a little too unhinged in the second volume.
The acting is top-notch, especially from Stacy Martin as a young Joe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as adult Joe. Uma Thurman is an absolute stand-out in her far too brief appearance, as is Jamie Bell in one of the film’s more abhorrent sequences. Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Christian Slater, Willem Dafoe, Mia Goth and Sophie Kennedy Clark also star in highly memorable supporting roles.
Lars Von Trier’s imagery throughout this film is evocative, confronting and at times rather beautiful, although the entire film looks and feels less sophisticated than his two previous works Antichrist and Melancholia. It’s not entirely tasteless, but it is crude; however, this fits with the darkly comical and graphic narrative.
The depiction of sexuality must be commented on. The way much of the scenes of sexuality have been shot removes a lot of emotional connection and intimacy for the viewer. They are filmed so realistically, so coarsely and so inartistically that they are far more likely to discomfort the viewer than arouse or even entertain, though this very much seems to be Lars Von Trier’s intention. The viewer is constantly reminded of the main character’s aversion to love, and its undisputed absence from sex. Like the recent film The Wolf of Wall Street, NYMPHOMANIAC is a cautionary tale.
NYMPHOMANIAC is a bold endeavour, and like any bold endeavour it is not always palatable but damned if it won’t leave a strong impression on you, for better or worse, long after the credits roll.
REVIEWER: David Thomas Williams.