Friday, August 29, 2014

Nymphomaniac: Volume I Review

I totally get what von Trier was trying to do here with Nymphomaniac: Volume 1, and I commend him for transcending the simple shock value factor by actually making a meaningful film beyond all the "OMG REAL SEX!" talk that lead up to my finally viewing the film. I am all for pushing the boundaries of cinema with methods meant to elicit a reaction from the audience, as long as those factors are contained within an actual film and an actual narrative, and clearly Lars delivered in that regard.

In fact, the first volume of his Nymphomaniac story is far less sex infused than I expected, as I went into the experience anticipating 86 minutes of artistic pornography and then 30 minutes of character development and plot. Lars von Trier clearly approached the topic of nymphomania with the intention of heading down a similar path as his 2011 film Melancholia, a film about depression and the devastating toll it can take on the person suffering as well as the victims they take down with them, and in that way I found Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 to exceed my expectations.

It's 2014 and sex is constantly at our fingertips, with a few clicks of a mouse you can find exactly what you want to see and who you want to see doing it, so merely presenting actual intercourse doesn't have the appeal it would have, say, 15 years ago when I was a perverted teenager with a one track mind. I had very little interest in a film such as this unless it had substance to back it up, and unfortunately while it tried, I simply could not grab hold of anything thematically with this picture. I just didn't care. I found the stories of sexual encounters to be rather bland and seemingly repetitive, which I guess you could say is the point because very little of this film is actually presented in a sexy fashion, but in the end what matters is that the content portrayed on the screen is capable of  holding my interest and Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 was teetering on the edge of being painfully boring.

The particular sequence that did work for me was the portion involving Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her father as he is losing a battle with cancer. I found the ability to associate her desire for pleasure with the urge to mask the pain of losing someone to be very effective and important for the film's narrative, but in the end that one portion wasn't enough to actually elevate the work to anything I would consider good or even remotely memorable. Well, except for seeing the erect penis of Shia LeBeouf. Unfortunately, that cost me at least a few minutes of sleep last night and will likely be something I have trouble forgetting any time soon.

I admire the craft of Lars von Trier and the fact that this film wasn't merely a compilation of debauchery and "shocking" imagery is enough for me to not completely dismiss the work as a whole, but when so many films are able to shake my core and leave me craving more, Nymphomaniac: Vol 1 didn't even register the slightest rattle and I certainly can take my time before sitting down for part two.



  1. The scenes with her father were amazing. (Disclaimer: I'm a HUGE fan of Christian Slater.) I think some people may have a hard time getting past the title of the movie...thinking it's just sex...when it really is a very moving portrait of this young woman. Her father understood her and accepted her, and she lost him. I found the gritty, very realistic coverage of the patient's loss of dignity to be... I'm not sure what word I want...moving? Real? Brave?
    Part 2 is more than just 'the second half.' Enjoy.

    1. The scenes with her father were absolutely the best part of this film, and while I left this experience mixed I was hoping for great things during Part 2.

      Unfortunately quite the opposite happened haha.

      I'm glad you connected with these films, that's awesome. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I really appreciate it!