Saturday, December 13, 2014
Nymphomaniac: Vol. II Review
In my review of Nymphomaniac: Vol. I (which you can read here) at one point I mentioned that the film was "teetering on the edge of being painfully boring". Volume II didn't just fall off that edge, it flipped dozens of times as it careened down the cliff and exploded in a cartoonish fashion once it found its final resting spot.
Lars von Trier is a gifted filmmaker, I am not doubting that. Before he unleashed his two part erotic opus on the world, he haunted me with Melancholia, a film I deemed great immediately after my one and only viewing and I have since gained a tremendous amount of admiration for it, as I cannot shake its rather profound approach to covering a topic like depression. I would need to revisit Dancer in the Dark, but it is a film that I have seen only once a dozen or so years ago and yet I can still recall various sequences that clearly were powerful enough to leave a lasting impression.
What I admired about the first half of Nymphomaniac is now long since forgotten. All I am left with is this slightly sour yet mostly shockingly bland taste in my mouth after witnessing the way the story concludes. Obviously I cannot make guarantees for the future as I have no idea what it holds, but I would be willing to wager a hefty sum that von Trier's four hour sexual odyssey will be quickly and easily left behind, never to be pondered again.
When the Nymphomaniac project first garnered buzz, it was because of the artistic decision by von Trier to include only real sexual acts in the film. The foreplay would be performed, the penetration would be real, and thus I suppose the work would be exciting in its authenticity. I rolled my eyes at this news because I figured it was merely an attempt to shock, a way to rally controversy and steal headlines rather than have any real value to the storytelling. Thus I was pleasantly surprised after viewing the first film because it attempted a meaningful, valuable narrative rather than just filling every frame with exposed genitals, although the fact that I found the finished product to be quite mediocre tells you I still had plenty of issues with the work.
At one point in Nymphomaniac: Vol. II, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is being viciously beaten by a man named K (Jamie Bell) for the purposes of pleasure. The scene includes rope, a taut strap to ensure a human being will stay still during anything, and a level of nudity that most films would never dream of showcasing. Sounds like something that would keep my eyes glued to the screen, right? Not so much. I was literally sipping a cup of coffee the whole time to make sure mine stayed open.
It was the kind of display that I was glad they avoided in the first first, and yet here it was. How shocking! How outrageous! How bold! How daring!
How boring. How ponderous. How utterly forgettable.