director Lars von Trier
Dude, who knows what goes on in the mind of filmmaker/provocateur, Lars von Trier? Really.
It might be easier to intuit (or assume) if he was pure filmmaker and not a known provocateur. But this film, from its title, its subject matter, its emphasis on showing non-simulated sex in its depiction, in some ways feels almost under a certain tinge of Exploitation.
Simply, the film follows an intellectual (Stellan Skarsgård) who stumbles on a beaten woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who he takes to his house to care for. She tells him her story, that she is a nymphomaniac, and their dialog brings about an episodic re-examination of her life with numerous intellectual asides and contrasts.
Von Trier broke the film into two “Volumes” but on my watching, it feels much more like two parts of a singular whole. So it’s over 4 hours of material, loaded with perversity, humor, dramas, pain and degradation.
Gainsbourg, between this film and Antichrist (2009), has earned all rights to being von Trier’s ultimate female muse, playing out with vast gravity all kinds of torment, torture, and humiliation that it seems that he can conceive. If von Trier is not a misogynist, he does a good job at inhabiting one, as this film (again paired with Antichrist — maybe an extension of Antichrist), is a film made with misogyny in mind.
At points, the film takes on a more whimsical tone, which reminded me of European sex comedies of the 1970’s or 1980’s, the soft-core tales of sexual misadventure and conquests, meant to play in a tone of titillation and erotica. As many have noted, Nymphomaniac is anything but erotic. It’s a tortuous tale, outre and extreme, and epic.
Is he taking the piss? If he means this as a joke of some sort, he’s all in.
It’s over four hours of deeply considered loathing, sadism, and joyless punishment. But it’s no hack job. He gets some amazing performances from some of his cast and the film is not some slapped-together pile of hooey. For as long as the damn thing is, it went by a bit faster than I expected. Actually, I think if I’d realized the duration that I was getting into I might not have gotten into it at all.
Quite frankly, it’s hard to imagine what he’s got left to shed on his audience.