Lars Von Trier has made his reputation by going to places where other directors fear to tread. He first came to international prominence through the tear-jerking Breaking The Waves and the hysteria-inducing The Idiots. Nymphomaniac Vol 1&2 was originally going to be one film, but the last instalment of the ‘Depression Trilogy’ (along with Antichrist and Melancholia) was ultimately split for the censored international release. They are similarly split for the DVD release of uncensored Director’s Cut, and clocking in at 5 ½ hours it’s probably for the best.
Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) discovers Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) badly beaten in the snow and takes her home with him. As she recovers, the pair discuss Joe’s life and her nymphomania. She recounts her childhood and losing her virginity to a random young man called Jerome (Shia LaBeouf). Years later, after Joe (Stacy Martin) has continued to investigate and satisfy her sex obsession, she goes for a job interview and meets him again. After initially mocking Jerome she finds herself falling in love with him, however her desires cannot be satisfied by just one man.
Nymphomaniac is, as you’d expect, very odd. There’s also, unsurprisingly, quite a lot of sex in the uncensored version. Those with a weak constitution should watch with care, but you should already know what you’re getting from a Lars Von Trier by now. The conversations between Skarsgård and Gainsbourg are fascinating and often turn into deep intellectual and psychological discussions relating to Joe’s experiences. However, the format becomes tired during the second film, and aslo becomes increasingly tenuous. There’s also some questionable morality in Joe’s sympathies and opinions. The sex is never erotic, and Stacy Martin’s almost continuous lack of clothing doesn’t seem to serve any real purpose. However, sex is just a cover in Nymphomaniac. All the good stuff takes place at a much higher level in this surprisingly feminist film.
Nymphomaniac: Director’s Cut is released on DVD & Blu-ray by Artificial Eye on May 11.