Nymphomaniac: Vol. I & II (2013)
Written and directed by Lars von Trier whose most known for directing films Dogvill, Melancholia, and Dancer in the Dark and his deeply artistic and ‘film Nior’ style of directing and writing. Nymphomaniac features an extremely large cast staring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, and Christian Slater. Appearances from known actors and actress’ such as Uma Therman and William Dafoe. The film was released in two pats (Volume 1 and 2) each with a run time of about two hours. Because the two films go together I am going to review them together.
First of all I must warn right away that these films contain extremely graphic sexual content throughout and the film is NR. It is not for young audiences or anyone who would be uncomfortable by such content. The plot of the films is that of a women named Joe that’s been beaten and left to die in an alley. By chance she is rescued by a random man and brought to his apartment nearby where she recites her life story of her struggle with nymphomania and sex addiction to her rescuer. I have mixed emotions about these films considering there is a great deal I like about them and also a great deal that I hated. I’ll start with what I enjoyed most about the films.
The cinematography in the films was fantastic. Going along with the director’s expressionist style of film making, Nymphomaniac did a great job of creating an intriguing story by separating each section of Joe’s life into chapters which correlate to a particular objects seen in the apartment of her rescuer. Long scenes of narration coupled by double or triple paneled shots gave the film an extremely artistic feel. The amount of close ups and photographic slideshow scenes made the movie interesting and captivating to watch.
The theme of the films is the thing I enjoyed most. While the topic of the movie is nymphomania, the theme of the movie to me was the exposure of the vulgarity of the masculine human condition with regards to sex. Deep down everyone is bound by the genetics of their sex and sexual orientation as sexual drive is the strongest and most dominantly felt passion we as humans experience. The irony is that while we know our sexual desire as humans is so dominant, this double standard between both men and women exists and while men are often praised for their sexual activity, women are torn down for it.
Now into what I disliked about the films. For starters, the films both started and ended with very dark grunge/metal music that is found literally nowhere else in the films besides the intro and credits. This was annoying for me as it felt completely disconnected from the rest of the films. Frankly, when I started the first movie I thought an add had popped up somewhere on my computer and spent a few minutes trying to find it before realizing it was actually part of the film. It felt completely random and served absolutely no purpose to the film. Perhaps von Trier likes grunge? But only at the start and finish of his films? Who knows.
The thing I hated more than anything about the films is that they switched actors and actress’ for the lead rolls!!!!!!! Now this is not always a bad thing, but in this case, terrible decision. The supposed purpose for the switch in cast was to show a passage of time from youth to adulthood. It was unsuccessfull. The change is extremely noticeable and is said to have happened after only aging three years. One scene, protagonist Joe is played by actress Stacy Martin. Narration in the film explains that a passage of three years has taken place from one scene to the next, and the actress is switched to Charlotte Gainsbourg. Not only was this change completely unnecessary, her change in appearance is incredibly drastic. The only thing the two actress’ have in common is their height, skin, and hair color. To make matters worse, Joe’s husband, played by Shia Lebouf, is kept the same during the three year leap. His role is replaced by an actor years later who also bears absolutely no resemblance other than skin and hair color. The switch in cast was not only completely unnecessary, it was distracting and left a bad taste in my mouth for the remainder of the films.
Despite its drawbacks I do believe the writing and cinematography are great enough to enjoy the film. The story had me captivated and intrigued the entire time. However I would in no way call this movie a casual watch. It is directed at a mature audience who can appreciate unique and artistic film styles. I’d say IMDb nailed this one on the head by giving it a 7 out of 10. As always, IMDb and trailer links are below. Please leave suggestions or feedback. Keep reading and Keep watching!