This review contains surface-level spoilers and analyses from Nymphomaniac Volume 1 and Volume 2, as well as an evaluation of society’s mixed reaction to the films.
Nymphomaniac is a movie with the potential to satisfy the insatiable lust of true movie critics the world over-who are seeking less superficial films that tackle issues of the human condition in a raw, uncensored way- as opposed to creating mere spectacles of distraction.
The basic story: a man finds a woman severely beaten up in an alleyway. He takes her home and cares for her as she tells her entire story of growing up and living with nymphomania- in response, he uses metaphors from his hobbies (namely literature and fishing) to relate to her experiences.
I spent 4 hours of my life watching Volumes 1 and 2, and it was quite an eye-opening experience. I must admit that I was expecting a sexual extravaganza going in, but was presented with a magnificent human story told from the point of view of an addict on the verge of illumination.
The often voyeuristic nature of the cinematography and the look-but-don’t-look framing of each shot constantly teases the audience, but manages to oscillate at a satisfying pace between hiding obscenities and thrusting them into eyesight rapidly, continuously, or both.
The seemingly fantastical nature of the story and happenings fashion a very surreal experience for the audience, one that rightly feels quite far from anything that mainstream society is used to, or even tolerates. This is an untold story; a forbidden story.
However, with the likes of Shia LaBeouf (who isn’t famous anymore), Uma Thurman, Stellan Skarsgård , Christian Slater and Charlotte Gainsbourg starring, and with legendary director Lars von Trier at the helm, the film was brought to larger audiences with greater ease.
Although not all audiences seem too happy with the film. I love that the way in which the 2 conversing characters (Joe and Seligman) discuss morality and life in general, elegantly challenging negative reaction to the film itself.
In their ongoing conversation and metaphorical comparisons- they pull one another out of black-and-white notions of morality, to notice all the grey areas in the world around them. The introspective nature of the storyteller (Joe), and the assistance- even if only to provide a different perspective- of the listener (Seligman) will keep you captivated all the way through, regardless of which direction your moral compass is pointing.
The most noticeable difference between Volume 1 and 2 is that the first volume is more exploratory, while the 2nd tackles deeper challenges. Volume 1 has the potential to make conservative groups purse their lips in contempt or indignation, and make liberal groups feel sexually emancipated by connecting with the characters.
Volume 2 on the other hand will leave the former and the latter of these groups uncomfortable and filled with either sympathy, empathy or shame- depending on their initial reaction to volume 1. In Volume 2, you see her nymphomania for what it truly is: a destructive addiction. Her world literally crumbles under the weight of her desire as she loses her family and damages her body through systematic violence.
I like that the film directly addresses the criticism it has likely received from many. In the scene where Joe quits her support group in Volume 2, she describes how her condition is a part of who she is, and how much she loves it. And that makes the most sense to me. It’s someone’s story- it’s not about what the audience finds acceptable or not.
I’d recommend this film for mature audiences only, because of the nature of the visual and conceptual content.
Memorable moments: Joe and her friend see how many men they can have sex with in the train’s lavatory in one journey. The prize: a packet of sweets. Also: 3 + 5 … That is all.
Awesome quote: “For me, love was just lust with jealousy added; everything else was total nonsense” – Joe
You can catch the full uncensored trailer for Nymphomaniac here (NSFW):
About the author: Co-founder of BTG Lifestyle, Stephen is all about that film, life and stuff.