Nymphomaniac Volume I and II

WRITTEN BY: Lars von Trier
DIRECTED BY: Lars von Trier
STARRING: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater
RATING: 4.5 stars

There is nothing gratuitous about the sex scenes in Nymphomaniac. It is a fascinating and complex story about a sex addict so all the sex scenes – as graphic and at times rather pornographic as they are – are necessary for effective storytelling. If you do not like seeing nudity or sex in films, then you would not bother with this film anyway. But if you can put aside any prudishness you might feel, Nymphomaniac is an intellectual, erotic, powerful and sad story.

Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac. When Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) finds her in an alley following a vicious beating, he provides her with shelter for the night, and she in turn, recounts her erotic and traumatic life.

Each volume is two hours long and they can certainly be watched as sequels. But I chose to watch them together and it left quite an impact. Joe's story is so enthralling that the film is well worth its length. Writer/director Lars von Trier has always pushed the boundaries with his film making and this is perhaps one of his most confronting films yet.

The protagonists each gave brave performances, especially Stacy Martin as the younger Joe in some very confronting and depraved scenes. Gainsbourg is also very strong and Skarsgard gives an equally intriguing performance. LaBeouf is quite good as one of Joe's lovers, although his accent slips were distracting at times. There is also a raft of other famed actors in smaller supporting roles including Christian Slater as Joe's kind-hearted father, Uma Thurman who is actually quite hilarious in a dramatic scene as a woman destroyed by Joe's affair with her husband, Willem Dafoe who is creepy and sinister, and Jamie Bell whose character takes the film in an uncomfortably violent direction.

Nymphomaniac is provocative and full of lust. Prepare yourself for lots of images of genitals. But more importantly, it is an amazing story.