“Nymphomaniac” Is An Infuriating Self Indulgence

Provocateur Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac fails to live up to its ambitious scope becoming nothing more than a lazy, over-indulgent attempt to titillate. Lyndon Wells takes a closer look…

Nymphomaniac, Lars von Trier - Top 10 FilmsA film titled Nymphomaniac made by provocative Danish screenwriter and director Lars Von Trier is exactly what you would expect it to be. This is the third in his “depression” trilogy following the divisive Antichrist and Melancholia. Von Trier enjoyed his traditional tongue-in-cheek publicity, complete with cast posters in mid orgasm.

The film starts in jarring fashion with an unnerving and abrupt score as scholar Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) finds Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) injured in an alley. He takes her in and listens as she recounts the story of her life, focusing on her many and varied sexual encounters. This lazy narrative structure often returns to the pair for inane chat that has illusions of artful grandeur.

Gainsbourg tells her story in titled chapters taking cues from objects round the dreary room like tea stains and a fly fishing hook. Skarsgård enjoys himself as he muses through the stunted dialogue, complete with illustrated footnotes about fly-fishing, music, mathematics and mythology.

Nymphomaniac, Lars von Trier - Top 10 Films

The bizarre nature of film can be explained with one quote: “So oral sex became, in the eye of the angler, your Finnish weapon”. This quote follows a degrading scene as a young Joe (Stacy Martin) competes to achieve the most sexual of exploits, on a train, for a bag of sweets.

There are many different cuts of Lars von Trier’s ambitious drama, depending on how tolerant you are of explicit imagery depends which version will disgust you the most. Whilst released as two separate films it should be considered as an overlong self indulgent whole. The two films were released within a week of each other, and Volume II cannot be considered a stand-alone feature, it is simply a continuation.

The films look professional with some stunning imagery and quite an impressive ensemble cast. There is plenty from the mysterious Shia LaBeouf who unintentionally provides the comic highlights with his unidentifiable globe trotting accent. Christian Slater escapes unscathed as Joe’s father but Uma Thurman is grating in a farcical scene as the wife of one of Joe’s partners.

Volume II is even more wayward, with Gainsbourg taking over from the young newcomer Stacy Martin and features an understated Jamie Bell as a professional sadist. The sexual exploits are pornographic, but do dare to venture into areas even porn films would be uncomfortable; including a dying man crapping himself and guys with erections having a row that interrupts a potential threesome.

The films aim to be provocative but if you are not already a fan of Lars Von Trier there is nothing here to enjoy but plenty to infuriate.

Nymphomaniac Two stars

Written by Lyndon Wells

Nymphomaniac, Lars von Trier - Top 10 FilmsDirected by: Lars von Trier
Written by: Lars von Trier
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Connie Nielsen, Jamie Bell, Willem Dafoe
Released: 2013 / Genre: Drama / Country: Denmark/Belgium/France/Germany / IMDB
More reviews: Latest | Archive

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About the Author
A film geek and cinephile masquerading as a Doctor, husband and father. With my dog Bilbo by my side I seek to prescribe a healthy movie experience through accurate diagnostics. Find me on Twitter: @lwellsfilm

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  1. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    I completely understand why someone would detest these two films. With the exception of the Uma Thurman part, which is absolutely horrible, I found the films to be well written, difficult to watch, beautifully acted, expertly directed and an overall interesting films(s). don’t think it’s meant to be easy to watch. This is definitely meant to push the boundaries. I’m interested in seeing more of von Trier’s work now.

    • Avatar
      Lyndon Wells Reply

      I didn’t detest the films, they were infuriating as it was more concerned with perceived boundary pushing than effective story telling. As with all Von Trier’s work it is well made, but if you enjoyed these films I would recommend seeking out Dogville or Melancholia as these are much better less self indulgent films.

  2. Avatar
    Callum Reply

    It was overdrawn for me. Yes, self indulgent. Given that it’s about 15 hours long, it lacked drama to sustain it.

    • Avatar
      Lyndon Wells Reply

      Agree the lack of drama was a big sticking point.

  3. Avatar
    CineGirl Reply

    I’ve liked some of von Trier’s work in the past – Melancholia was excellent – but Nymphomaniac was a laborious bore (although I can’t say that I’ve actually sat through the entirety of part 2).

    • Avatar
      Lyndon Wells Reply

      Don’t bother, if you didn’t enjoy Vol I as Vol II is even more infuriating with and far more wayward. Very frustrating as Melancholia is far superior film

  4. Avatar
    Paragraph Film Reviews Reply

    WTF happened to LVT!?! I was lucky enough to study some of his early films at uni and some of them were fantastic. Since AntiChrist it’s like he’s just become a lazy provocateur more concerned about grabbing headlines than making great movies again.

    I haven’t seen this yet, but most reviews don’t really fill me with confidence!

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