Spoilers are most likely going to spoil the movie.
Whilst watching this movie I kept thinking how I would rate Lars von Trier’s latest Nymphomaniac because its good, its almost close to perfect but there’s still something missing. Even after its powerful ending, I’m certain that the movie was just a warm-up for the Nymphomaniac: Volume II which, based on the teaser at the end of the first movie, will be more shocking, more out there, more sex, more twisted and hopefully perfect.
Being a little familiar with Lars von Trier’s work (Melancholia), I was a bit excited to see his latest script unfold on the screen because the topic itself is very powerful and unique. There obviously are movies with sex scenes but I can’t think of movies that are only revolving around sex and nothing else. Therefore Nymphomaniac was already something different before I saw it because the idea itself is already so out there that it’s kind of scary. Now, the first part of the movie will not really dive into the very shocking stuff, I have a feeling that the next movie is going to be even more thought provoking and I should consider this as more of an introduction to the things that will start to happen. I can’t lie, I’m now even more excited to see the second one because there’s something about Nymphomaniac that you can’t shake off.
After Melancholia, I was sure Nymphomaniac was going to have a similar direction but I was neither right nor wrong. It’s definitely von Trier, but I like how he differentiates his own style to fit the topic of the movie. If it’s about depression, it feels more depressed, if it’s about sex, it feels as dark and yet, playful. The opening of Nymphomaniac is a great example, a very interesting scene in terms of style, sound and visuals. The rain was almost like playing a song but then we see Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) lie there in the ground, all rugged and bruised up. The contrast between playful and dark, that’s also what is evident in the fact that the movie does make you laugh at times and all of it is very intriguing. After we first see Joe, Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) finds her and she insists he’d not call the ambulance nor the police, instead, he invites her to his home to have a cup of tea. This would be the place of the storytelling, since the entire movie is divided into stories about Joe’s life and sex, love and family.
In terms of the plot, man, there’s so much to talk about and so little time (I really need to get back to my studies) – Joe tells us five stories The Compleat Angler, Jerôme, Mrs. H, Delirium and The Little Organ School all of which follow Young Joe (Stacy Martin) and her discovery of herself and countless men. It’s hard to say which of these is the weakest story, I feel like they all stand out for various reasons but for me personally, Mrs. H and Delirium stood out. Whilst they were completely different, contradicting almost, the chapters followed each other and created a very interesting mix of feelings. Mrs. H (Uma Thurman) was probably the most outrageous characters in Nymphomaniac because you almost didn’t know what to expect. Crazy and yet compassionate, totally off the rockers I would say but what a great fun to watch. Thurman truly out did herself with this role and I really felt discomfort and pain when she started screaming in the end, powerful.
Delirium on the other hand was a completely different side of Joe, the one that felt things, the one that was hurt by other people’s pain and it was because of her father (Christian Slater). I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with my judgment today but Slater was also amazing in this part and it was painfully good, I must admit, I got emotional because it was so realistically portrayed that it hurt. Sometimes pain and illness is somehow shown more beautifully than it should, there’s been talk about how cancer is prettier in movies than in real life, but in Delirium the illness felt ugly. I’m glad that it didn’t show a lot, it showed just tiny bits of this unnamed illness that Joe’s father was suffering from but you could tell it was tearing him apart. By far my favorite chapter but I’m not sure weather it was because of the minimal sexual content or because it was the most emotional part of Nymphomaniac.
That being said, I can’t really dismiss Jerome (Shia LeBeouf) from this review because he was a very big part of Young Joe’s life. He was there for 3 chapters out of 5 and he is like something you can’t really shake off completely. It was almost comforting to see Jerome pop up in the final chapter because the mutated concept of love would adapt to him the most in Nymphomaniac. LeBeouf’s performance kept getting better throughout the movie, I can’t really believe it is the same guy who ran around with giant robots for three movies. Was he phenomenal, probably not, but considering it’s him, I’d say he held his own quite well. But talking about phenomenal, let’s just say that Stacy Martin deserves that title.
As Young Joe, Martin definitely had big shoes to fill: her first acting role, big director, well known cast, is going to be followed by Gainsbourg’s and let’s not forget the nudity. I’m no expert, I tend to like performances that aren’t maybe as amazing as I think they are, but Martin for me was amazing. Was she a bit shy and a little awkward most of the times, yes, but that for me worked so well in terms of the character. Rather than being this out there, loud and all about sex woman, she was more subtle, more quiet and almost sneaky about it. There’s a certain aspect of mystery to her because of this, and I think Young Joe wouldn’t have been as great as she was if she’d be any different.
As her so called downhill spiral began in chapter 1 and continued until the end, the final scene came almost as a conclusion of Young Joe’s transformation. She had been through so much and done so many guys that it had finally caught up to her. When she says: I can’t feel anything, and the first part of the five and a half hour long movie ends, I almost gasped. It was perfect. Because of that, the need to see Volume II is strong because I feel like this will bring in a lot more chaos into Joe’s life.
There are so many other things I could talk about, so many little things that I’d like to share but I feel like it would take me forever and nobody has time nowadays, including me. I’m pretty certain that when I get my hands on the DVD, I’d be able to post an imagery review of this movie because there were various shots that just made my movie brain tingle. Like one of those And So It Begins… type of list posts where I mention all these little scenes that I really liked. Anyway, as you can tell, I really liked the visual approaches throughout and there isn’t anything bad I can tell about Nymphomaniac. I even liked that it was steady paced and not rushed. I even loved the black and white chapter that captured her father’s death: by the way, there was a scene in that chapter that literally made me jump! All in all, everything fits in Nymphomaniac and the visual presentation was almost innovative. Not Malick kind of innovative but still innovative and most importantly, interesting!
PS: I’m most interested in seeing Jamie Bell and Willem Dafoe in Volume II because though I had hoped, they were not in the first part of the movie.1
I really love Von Trier and have been excited to see this. It seems so out there, and yet your marvelous review grounds it somewhat. I’m now even more excited to see this!
The first part is not so out there.. maybe it’s me, like yes, it has nudity and sex and stuff but I don’t know, it didn’t shock me as much. The second part will have more moral issues I guess, the teaser seemed like I’d start to reevaluate Joe a lot!
Interested to see this, although it probably will not be in the cinema.
Well we Estonians don’t seem to mind seeing penises on the big screen. 😀
Almost every Dutch movie has sex in it, so I don’t mind that much, but I can wait till this is available on DVD.
I have always liked Von Trier. This review has me feeling optimistic about his latest.
I think I like him too…
Very interesting piece mettelray…having not seen this film yet I’m still uncertain about the need to use unsimulated sex in the film and where the line is drawn between pornography and art. I’m sure von Trier would like us to think this is art but I’m at a loss to understand why he can’t simulate the actions of his characters. To me, it seems like the filmmaker is doing what he likes to do – and that’s being controversial. You can make a career out of it but so far he hasn’t wowed me.
Well, for me, the first didn’t really have a lot of unstimulated sex.. there was a blowjob, then a more raunchy sex scene in the end with actual so called porn qualities.. but the first didn’t really shock me.
I guess.. with so much CGI in the movie industry nowadays, showing real things is a very secondary thing. I must say, yes, CGI looks awesome and life-like, but when it’s taking over some movies for instance Alice in Wonderland, for me, it feels forced. I do get it, some people don’t really like the “outside the box” things some artists do, but for me, the realness is raw and movies need more of it.. Does it have to impress everybody? No. I just happened to enjoy it.. porn or no porn.
PS: I didn’t really think of it as real sex anyway, I don’t know, the blowjob looked real indeed and I was a bit shocked but it happened in the beginning and then it was not as graphic for a while so I calmed down.
I’m really looking forward to seeing this! Especially after your review 🙂
Well, don’t get excited, I have a feeling it will cause a lot of controversy!
This is definitely going to be an interesting film to talk about, haha. Glad Thurman is good, she’s been stuck with crappy roles for a while now.
How big is her part?
Not big, only one chapter but it’s quite out there in terms of the character so she’s definitely memorable!