I sat down to watch Nymphomaniac I & II with a friend, deciding to get a first hand view of what all the hype was about, knowing absolutely nothing of what the plot would entail. The story is written and directed by Lars Von Trier, who brought us the heavy handy, and well…melancholy flick Melancholia. If you are looking for a sexy flick, Nymphomaniac isn’t it. If you are looking for some insight into a world that the mundane inclined wouldn’t venture, this really isn’t it either. Uplifting? No. Life changing? No. A little stomach churning? Yes. Depressing? Dear Zod yes.
Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac starts with an older man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), finding a woman who has been badly beaten in an alley, and decides to take her home and care for her. The woman, whose name is Joe (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg), recounts her long life story as a nymphomaniac and how it lead her to the beaten state she’s in.
She starts the tale with losing her virginity to Shia LaBeouf’s charater Jerôme, in a completely unromantic, utilitarian manner. Knickers off, a few jabs and back to fixing his bike. From here she recounts her teenage years of boarding trains with friends, making a contest of having sex with as many guys they can before reaching the destination in the hopes of winning a bag of sweets.
While eventually her friends leave the loose ways behind, our leading lady makes it a life style. The search for sex leads her down darker and darker roads (to the viewer, not in her belief), which often come off as ridiculous, despite the Writer/Director’s attempts for realism. If you are worried that I have dropped too many spoilers, fear not, the films in their entirety span 4 very long hours.
Seligman listens to her tale, when asked how he is not aroused, he tells her that he finds it interesting, but he himself is A-sexual. The tale covers her sympathetic view for pedophiliacs, ventures into BDSM, genitalia bloody and beaten, complaining of recurring sores, that somehow aren’t the result of std (that bullet she somehow dodges), and her sexual deviance leading to alternative means of employment.
The sex is graphic, and unsimulated (They apparently fused the engaged bits of porn actors onto the film). The sex scenes meant to shock and dismay, were mostly just tedious and boring, along with the rest of the flick/s. The only thing amusing regarding sex and the film, is the behind the scenes story of Shia LaBeouf’s casting. When Lars Von Trier asked for a photograph of his member to be considered for the part of Jerôme, he instead sent the Director a sex tape of him and his girlfriend. He must have a very understanding girlfriend indeed.
Despite hype, despite shock value, despite several a-listed actors, and despite Von Trier’s desire to become the next Fellini, the film falls flat. I’ve seen Antichrist, I’ve seen Melancholia, and now I’ve seen Nymphomaniac I & II. The only thing I have yet to see is why Lars Von Trier’s movies continue to garner acclaim.