NYMPH( )MANIAC: Volume I (2014) (Not Rated)
This review contains SPOILERS!
Lars von Trier lives for controversy. He adores it, he loves it, it's what keeps him going. Seeing a film like "NYMPH( )MANIAC" or "Nymphomaniac" coming from him is absolutely no surprise...seeing as just in the title, he tries to push the boundaries a little bit more. But the sad fact that Mr. von Trier can't seem to avoid is that he is a very sentimental man and his latest film shows that...and it shows a whole lot more.
Lars von Trier has made some doozy films, most notorious probably being "Antichrist"(a film that he later quotes in "Volume II" which assumes that everyone who sees "NYMPH( )MANIAC" is a Trier-ier) ; but he's not the most shocking director in the world, not even close in fact...that being said, his films aren't for the faint of heart.
Stirring up as much press as he can, von Trier's decision to use Shia LaBeaof (I am not famous anymore) in the film has actually helped add to the mound of controversy surrounding the film, which is probably what the director wanted in the first place.
"NYMPH( )MANIAC" begins with a woman named Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) lying in the middle of an alley, beaten up. The sounds of the rain hitting the tops of trashcans, the wind blowing the chains lying around her fill the viewer's ears. Then, a hardcore rock song blasts into sound. This is what much of the film feels like, a quiet moment followed by a punch to the face...it's not exactly subtle; but hey, it wasn't meant to be.
A passing man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) sees her and tells her that he's going to call an ambulance; but she tells him not to. Instead, he brings her back to his house and serves her tea and pastries and she starts telling him her story.
She addresses herself as a nymphomaniac from the first moment of her story. She tells him that her sex addiction isn't exactly a sex addiction; but more like a lust for lust's sake. We are taken back into her mind, in chapter form, to see how she came to be lying in the middle of an alley, bloodied up and bruised.
Her rescuer, Seligman, is an observant and caring man. He rarely ever holds back from voicing his psychoanalytical opinions, often drawing from other sources to make his point. He likens fairly much everything to fly fishing.
Joe's story is sexual, but it is also about sexual hurdles. It's about sexual awakening, and manipulation. The film seems to be implying that a nymphomaniac can be a good person; but Joe does not exemplify this because her own manipulation fills her up.
Joe goes back to start her sexual awakening, which begins at age two, which she discovered that she was a woman. Von Trier tries too hard to be shocking, he tries to make us uncomfortable; but it doesn't always work, because his tenderness shows too often...and do his inconsistencies.
Joe's mother, she unfussily describes as "a cold b**ch", is detached from her daughter's life. Her father is a pragmatic poet, but just a pragmatic. Von Trier's script is most confusing when describing Joe's father (played by Christian Slater). He is a man of science—as part of her exploration, Joe reads pages of books about human anatomy—yet he has whimsical stories about the trees and flora.
Talking to Seligman, Joe recounts the time that she lost her virginity and when she joined a club that banned the girls from ever having sex with a man more than one time. Headed by her best friend, B (Sophie Kennedy Clark), Joe starts to live the dogma of the cultish group. B has always been the one that pushed Joe's sexuality farther. One scene has Joe reliving a dare. The two of them on a train wanted to see how many men they could have sex with before the ride was over...the winner would get a bag of chocolates. It seems trivial, but the girls have such a careless view of sex, which turns into an addiction for Joe.
Like the lead character from "Shame", sex becomes a release for Joe. She has to have that escape.
The scene that best showcases this is a hospital scene when Joe randomly has sex with a few of the staff to make her forget what's happening around her.
The final moments of Volume I imply that the next part is going to be even nastier...so be cautious.
What surprised me more than anything else was the stance on sex Lars von Trier was taking. Sex is a dangerous act to him, it can tear homes apart, make people irrational, damage the mind.
It's not what we've come to expect from him. Then again, the movie is quite touching at moments, and no I don't mean that in any other way.
"NYMPH( )MANIAC" throws everything and the kitchen sink at the viewer including on text on screen, black-and-white, archive footage, Edgar Allen Poe, and Cantus Firmus. From the Fibonacci sequence to the best way to catch fish, von Trier has crafted an intense and engrossing film.
"NYMPH( )MANIAC: Volume I" is very intriguing and very hypnotic. It's not von Trier's most shocking work, but that doesn't mean you should go see it.
The best advice I can say is know your limits...and see this film if you want. It's moving, pretentious, and leaves the door open for the second part of the film.
There's a lot going on here to either make or break the movie for the viewer. I really liked it, but I don't think I would recommend it.
Posted by Micah Jones