Nymphomaniac

Love or loath him Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier might be on of the most interesting directors working today.  His films are ballsy, and have a confronting point of view. That’s hardly something you can use to describe most mainstream American films being made today. Nymphomaniac Vol.1, (Vol. 2 will follow later next month), is without a doubt his most provoking not to mention most monologue heavy film to date.

Like all of von Trier’s movies that have come out in recent years all the notoriety have little to do with the movie itself as the press brouhaha that surrounds it, Shia LaBeouf’s bizarre paper bag wear appearance at the Berlin Film Festival being one of these.  All controversy aside here’s what Vol. 1 encompasses.  Nymphomaniac is divided into two parts. It might have been a bit unnecessary since many, including this reviewer, would have gladly sat through the second half directly after viewing Vol. 1. The first half involves a back-story of woman named Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who’s found beat up in a back alley by a kind older bachelor played by Stellan Skarsgard.

Ushering her in from the cold, and tending to her cuts and bruises he finds more about this enigmatic woman. As a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac Joe spills her emotional guts to him of her sexual encounters that trace all the way back to young womanhood.  Newcomer Stacey Martin portrays Joe in the flashbacks, and it’s then divided into five chapters that chronicles her sexual escapades starting with her losing her virginity as a teenager to a brooding young man, played by Shia LaBeouf.  LaBeouf makes another appearance about midway through as her skeezy employer in an office setting. This is the trickier film to have a solid opinion to discuss since it’s literally like walking out midway through the story, but it defiantly leaves you intrigued at where it’s going.

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The casts of von Trier films are always some of the most interesting parts. Here are some of the highlights of the all-star cast. Having worked with von Trier twice before in Anti-Christ and Melancholia Charlotte Gainsbourg delivers some devastatingly monologues. Since Vol.1 relies so much on her performance to connect the flashbacks much of it wouldn’t work without her. Some notable supporting players are a well-used Christian Slater as Joe’s sad sap father, and a terrific turn from Uma Thurman.  Thurman ignites her scenes in her portrayal of a woman on the edge who goes by the name of Mrs. H who’s philandering husband has left her for the misleading Joe.  Here’s one of Hollywood’s most shamefully underused actresses working today. It’s fun to see her come unhinged in what is probably one of the best, and one of the more oddly funny scenes of the whole movie.

One of the most discussed things surrounding this movie will no doubt be the explicit sexual content. (Vol. 2 is supposed to be even more graphic then this one.)  Those familiar with von Trier approach to making movies will probably not be shocked, and how does one not know what their in for by the title alone? He goes for the material head on thanks to a willing cast of actors that are willing to bear all both literally, and emotionally for him. Much of Vol.1 is incomplete, and it’s supposed to be since the second half is mandatory viewing. I’d imagine the splitting of the film into two volumes was on the part of the studio, and not the director. Perhaps it will play better as one when it’s released on demand, and on Blu-Ray when it can be watched as a whole instead of in two parts. With this film’s strong themes of loneliness, and deep-seeded sexual impulses Vol.2 will hope to prove to be just as fascinating as this was one.