Sunday, June 15, 2014

Nymphomaniac [Denmark, 2013]

Nine Things about the Movie Nymphomaniac

1. This is the third film Lars von Trier’s Depression Trilogy, after Antichrist and Melancholia. It’s a 4-hour movie that was released in theaters in two parts. The original version is over 5 hours long, but, as of the time of this writing, has never been released anywhere. It’s the most straightforward and easily understood of the three films, but it still requires focus, stamina, and an open mind.

2. While all three films can be seen as stand-alone films, they should be seen in order, as “Nymphomaniac” shares the casts of the first two movies, and brings the themes full circle. There are several explicit references to “Antichrist” in this movie.

3. Charlotte Gainsbourg returns once again in the third episode, exposing herself in new and humiliating ways. This time, she plays a sex addict that is found beaten in the street by a kindly, intellectual old man who brings her home. She tells her life story to him.

4. The movie makes the claim that sexuality is the single most powerful force in a person’s life. As a consequence, this is an extremely sexually graphic movie - all of the main actors had to employ body doubles (which means porn stars) when filming the actual sex scenes.

5. In this movie, sex is described not only literally, but also in metaphors. Music, fishing, mathematics, delirium, religion, and systemic violence are some of the perspectives through which the movie looks at sex.

6. Von Trier deconstructs sex and love and shows that they are really manifestations of loneliness, emptiness, and meaninglessness. They are sometimes useful distractions, and sometimes destructive forces, in a random and coincidental world that cares nothing for us.

7. The anti-woman themes that many people see in “Antichrist” are explored and expanded in this film, which is a raw and anguished cry of a woman’s struggle with her natural power.

8. The acting in this movie is uniformly good; Shia LaBoeuf does a great job (although his accent sucks), and Uma Thurman delivers a jaw-dropping performance of an abandoned wife. But Jamie Bell almost steals the whole movie in his portrayal of a sadistic man offering his services to discerning women.

9. This movie is a long, angry look at the hypocrisies and social inheritances in modern life. I would hesitate to recommend this movie (or the other two films in the trilogy, for that matter) to anyone who has never experienced Lars von Trier before. But for those that are ready for this scorching, sexual, existential howl, it’s a fascinating conclusion to a remarkable trilogy.

WARNING: This trailer is NSFW.