Told in two volumes, Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac isn’t just a film, it’s an experience, and should be treated as such. When the first volume was finished, I decided to step away for a few hours before starting volume two. Mainly because I had some things I needed to do, but also to allow what I had been watching to firmly plant itself inside my head. Upon starting volume two, my brain was full of ideas. After finishing it, my brain was overloaded with them. The whip-smartness of this film and the ideas it produces are what people should be discussing, not how graphic its sexual content is.
Volume I: Sex isn’t used to titillate the audience, but to illustrate a point to them, which is that our male-dominated society always views women as sex objects instead of sexual beings who are capable of having their own desires. Von Trier puts the sexual appetites of young Joe, played to perfection by Stacy Martin, on full display and dares you not to look away. He wants you to feel uncomfortable. Then he wants you to ask yourself, “Would I feel as uncomfortable watching this if it were a man?”
Volume II: Von Trier no longer shows sex as an empowering thing, but takes us to the destructive force it can sometimes become. Our friendly neighborhood nymphomaniac’s urges have led her to a much darker place, a place where she’s lost all control. She must have her desires met and will do anything and everything to try and accomplish that. Charlotte Gainsbourg is fucking brilliant and fearless as fully grown Joe. There’s also a nice little reference to Antichrist in this part, which any fan of Von Trier’s will enjoy.
With this latest work, the mad Dane further cements himself as one of those directors people will either love or hate. I happen to be in total awe of Von Trier and fully appreciate his complicated and sometimes hard to watch films. He’s someone who knows how to both provoke and enlighten at the same time. I can’t wait to see where his superbly twisted brain goes next.