Directed by Lars Von Trier and released theatrically in the director’s home country of Denmark in 2013.
These reviews do contain spoilers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Infinitely more brutal than Antichrist and in a much more magnificently cinematic (and, more importantly, human) way, so much so that it ends up being something that actually spins a narrative for us to dismantle rather than the surreal illusion that Antichrist gives us. I have always been so much more partial to these dream-like states that cinema can give us in the form of celluloid and for that reason alone I will always favour Antichrist but if I was to talk truly cinematically then Nymph()maniac, Vol. I would undeniably be the better film. Now, I can’t say I’ve had enough meaningful sexual experiences to even begin to relate to the character of Joe here but thanks to the absolutely incredible performances from all the actresses involved who portray the character, such a personal knowledge is extremely irrelevant.
What’s funny though, really, about all this is Stellan Skarsgard’s hilarious allegories comparing Joe’s “dirty stories” to stories about fishing and ancient mathematical problems. Ultimately, Skarsgard’s Seligman represents every man who has ever misjudged a woman’s problem when faced with it. Or maybe he just represents the complete lack of understanding of women which many have perceived Von Trier to have or rather not have. Either way, anyone who holds such a view (or maybe even the contrary view that he may be a misogynist, which he very well may be especially considering the fact hat he may have even admitted such a thing) cannot dismiss the craftsmanship of his visceral female characters in almost every single one of his films – at least the ones I’ve seen from Breaking The Waves through to Dogville and the three films that make up LVT’s latest trilogy (Antichrist, Melancholia and Nymph()maniac). I can’t really testify to the validity of these female characters, of course, because I am not a female but if I come to find that these representations are wholly inaccurate then I’ll gladly admit my immaturity and idiocy and boycott all of Von Trier’s future films, but something tells me that may not quite happen.
Now onto part two, let’s hope Von Trier doesn’t fuck this up. Otherwise we could very well be onto one of the most important English-language films in recent cinematic history – and I’m not talking about films that will get you an Oscar, a career in Hollywood and a star on the so-called walk of fame.
Definitely a fitting end to an absolute saga of a film, undeniably Von Trier’s finest as a true soldier of cinema (as Herzog once described another Dogme filmmaker), and an absolute tour-de-force of a trilogy if I ever saw one. If Bergman (the originator of the unorthodox trilogy) was alive to see these three, he would be proud.
In my humble opinion, I think Von Trier has hilariously promoted this as an arthouse porn flick simply to piss off those who have screamed, and will probably continue to scream, “pretentious fucknut” no matter what he does. LVT’s hero Andrei Tarkovsky (the subject of this weeks Filmmaker Quote of the Week) once said something, that I find quite relevant, about his film Stalker; the quote goes: “Stalker needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts.” I find these two facts go very well together side by side.
My theory of Skarsgaard’s character, as playing the part of the pent up frustration of every man who has ever wrongly or even justly interpreted the problems of a woman, ends up being truer than I ever could have hoped when he tries to stick his dick in our protagonist and pays a hefty price for doing so.
The true achievement Von Trier has made with this film, however, is not in the shock value or the explicit pornography that is laden throughout – and with due cause considering the subject matter – it is in the beauty and truth of the words expressed by Joe and Seligman; one being our ; and the other being the child, listening in and waiting for the Big Bad Wolf to blow the three little pigs’ house down.
What will probably seem to some as merely the psychological ramblings about nothingness seems to me like the bubbling up of many profound ideas shooting straight out of Lars’ brain and thrust into our own in the form of the words from our two characters at the heart of the film: one, a self-confessed nymphomaniac and the other, a middle-aged virgin fascinated by every word. I’m not really sure which of these two that the director himself is, but I think it’s very safe to say that with these two characters (and this is without even mentioning the many defining moments – be they philosophical or merely allegorical – of Justine and Claire in Melancholia and the He and She of Antichrist) Von Trier has tried and succeeded magnificently in overcoming the depression that sparked the idea for these three films in the very first place. Or, at least I hope… or rather don’t hope, considering if the latter is the case we may very well get one or more spectaculars like these.
He was thrust into the mainstream with his Dogme manifesto and with it he and many others brought about simple yet profound ideas about how – a little over a century after its conception – cinema was already in need of a rebirth… directors like Thomas Vinterberg and Harmony Korine followed in his footsteps and continued to make – or rather, break – waves (pun very well intended). Despite taking a step back to film more somber films during the early to mid-2000’s, Lars Von Trier thrust himself back into the spotlight with an absolute tour-de-force trilogy of magnificent films that shine a much needed light on the human psyche in an age of cinema where big-budget action films are what top the box office. Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky would be proud to see the likes of Korine and Von Trier still breaking free of the mould that has been carved beneath and around them. And for this, Mr. Von Trier, I salute you. Keep up the good work.