Director: Lars Von Trier
Stars: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stacy Martin, Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman
Lars’ 4 hour shagnum opus is orgasmically good!
So when I heard that Lars was doing a 4 hour porn movie I rolled my eyes. Don’t get me wrong, Lars Von Trier is one of my favourite directors and his films are often rich and illuminating, but he can also try very hard to shock. The idea of Lars doing a porn movie seemed to be like a big way of him saying, “Look at me everyone! Aren’t I shocking!?” Thankfully though, reviews came out and were largely positive. The film wasn’t a porn movie at all and I breathed a sigh of relief and felt a buzz of excitement. Last night I watch Nymphomaniac volume I and I loved it!
The film is incredibly interesting and strangely absorbing. It’s also very experimental which I actually liked a lot. One scene is black and white; another is put into a box whilst others have numbers and words super-imposed on the screen. Some may find these visuals distracting, but I found them fascinating and it gave the film a real pulse. Nymphomaniac feels alive and it’s wonderful that Lars feels so confident to experiment freely and put his own artistic input into the mix. Not enough directors do this, but the ones who do are often the greatest.
I loved the jarring opening. It opens very calmly and silently with the camera focusing on drops of rain and details of an alley-way, before revealing Charlotte Gainsbourg fagged out on the floor. Then without warning, an incredibly loud heavy metal anthem bursts through the speakers. It’s completely ill-fitting, but strangely enough it works and it sort of foreshadows the mysterious and playful nature of the character Joe, and the film itself.
As stated by many people, the film is basically an interaction between Joe and Seligman as Joe recounts her life up until now. Volume I deals entirely with young Joe and what a fascinating character she is. The two hour segment flew by, because the character is so strangely absorbing. I found the whole film gripping. The earlier scenes on the train were wonderfully executed with brilliant dialogue and a very dark atmosphere.
The sex scenes themselves are nowhere near as bad as they’ve been hyped up to be. Of course some of them are pretty awkward to watch (e.g. the scene where Joe loses her virginity) but only a couple actually have pornographic shots, and whilst these shots are unnecessary; at least they have more meaning than that pointless shot in Antichrist. If someone bought Nymphomaniac hoping to be titillated, then they’d be extremely disappointed. Unless of course they’re into disturbed characters being sexually humiliated.
I also must talk about the Uma Thurman scene. It is brilliant! It’s such a shame that Uma’s only good films have been with Quentin Tarantino because she is a fantastic actress who seems to do a lot of rubbish films! Thankfully, Uma is now in a good non-Tarantino film and she shines. It’s a masterful scene and will probably be the best scene in the entire two-part film. It’s toe-curlingly awkward, yet darkly humorous, and then very emotional. I loved it.
It’s a total contrast to the scenes with Shia who fails to shine. A lot has been said about his accent and yes it really is that bad! It’s a mixture of South African, Australian, cockney, rough English and American… And maybe a little Polish. I was trying not to pay much attention to it, but it really is very distracting and also very difficult to understand what he’s saying. Why on Earth did Lars not say, “Shia, what the frig are you doing with your accent? Just speak American for Christ’s sake!”
Another small problem I had with the film was that the dialogue was sometimes clumsy. Some of the more philosophical conversations felt too contrived to be taken seriously. Also, some lines felt like something from a bad porn movie. Other than that, the screenplay was absolutely top-notch! Lars clearly has a very profound and interesting story to tell and I can’t wait to see how it continues. I’m also glad about watching it in parts as there is a lot to take in and you can really appreciate more. I would put Nymphomaniac volume I on par with the rest of the Depression trilogy.