"Nymphomaniac: Volume I"
Release Date: March 28, 2014
Running Time: 118 minutes
Beginning with 1996’s Breaking the Waves, Lars von Trier has found time in most of his films to explore from a female perspective the ravaging effects of depression and/or the complexities of sexual politics of the day. With Nymphomaniac: Volume I—the first of two films culled from his original five-and-half-hour uncut version—the Danish director presents us with the unsettling story of self-loathing woman whose life is dictated by her addiction to sex. At least that’s the case inVolume I, which finds Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) recounting her youthful sexual exploits to the kindly Seligman (fellow von Trier regular Stellan Skarsgård) after he finds her wounded in a dark alley and takes her to his home to nurse her back to health. Joe’s anecdotes ranges from the amusing to the highly disturbing as she reveals everything from her initial introduction to sex, the games she plays with men, and the consequences of the actions she takes as a result of her addiction. As the younger version of Joe, the fearless Stacy Martin offers a harrowing portrait of addiction as she transforms from a nervous teen unaware of her power over men to a confident but detached woman whose sexual needs possess a destructive quality. With Nymphomaniac: Volume I, von Trier makes it easy for us to look past the nudity and explicit sex—which includes scenes of penetration performed by sex doubles—so we can accept Joe’s journey as one guided and defined her addiction. By hurting herself and those around her, Joe is no different than someone addicted to alcohol, drugs, and gambling. At no time, though, does von Trier use Nymphomaniac: Volume I to criticize women who act on and enjoy their sexual freedom, which our society has a nasty tendency to do in hypocritical fashion. Joe’s story is about surrendering to impulses that cannot be controlled. Indeed, von Trier implores us to see Joe through the eyes of Seligman, who sits and listens to Joe’s story without passing judgment. Actually, it’s quite funny and enlightening to hear Seligman discuss fly fishing, Fibonacci numbers, and polyphonic harmonies in relation to Joe’s sexual experiences. In addition to the main cast, Nymphomaniac: Volume I offers strong performances from Christian Slater as Joe’s caring father, Uma Thurman as the wife of one of Joe’s lovers, and Sophie Kennedy Clark as Joe’s best friends. The film’s weakest link is Shia LaBeouf, who doesn’t possess the enigmatic qualities required of the bad boy who beguiles Joe and forces her to feel something akin to love. Plus, LaBeouf employs a horrible English accent that induces laughter every time he opens his mouth. Hopefully LaBeouf is less of a presence in Nymphomaniac: Volume II, which promises to focus on the trials and tribulations of Gainsbourg’s middle-aged Joe.
Aired: March 27, 2014
Web site: http://www.magpictures.com/nymphomaniac/