I went to see Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac Volume I the other day. I didn’t necessarily want to go see it, but I felt somewhat obligated to support that kind of filmmaking.
For those unfamiliar with the movie, it is the tale of a woman who considers herself to be a nymphomaniac. Now, I’ve never met a nymphomaniac, and I certainly would welcome the opportunity. But I assumed this would be another film about the pitfalls of putting the physical act of sex above emotions and relationships, which is not something I’m necessarily interested in paying to see on the big screen.
So why did I feel obligated to see this feature? Because it’s not rated, due to its graphic sexual content. Yes, there is plenty of sex to be seen, but I didn’t find it that graphic. At least not compared to Blue is the Warmest Color, or something like 9 Songs. And it wasn’t the sex scenes that occasionally made me uncomfortable as much as a few of the other scenes focusing on the shortcomings and sufferings of individual characters.
And for those sex scenes, Von Trier used stunt cunts and stunt cocks – filming the genitals of professional porn stars and then digitally, and absolutely seamlessly, imposing them on the actors’ bodies – presumably to unburden them of the embarrassment of such exposure. However, if I were one of those actors, I’d rather use my own naughty bits instead of having someone else’s appear on me digitally, for time eternal, because most people are going to assume they were yours in the first place. Better the prick you know, as it were, but then I have an admittedly nice prick.
His cast, like the overall production, is top-class. Stellan Skarsgård and Uma Thurman are fantastic, making the likes of Shia LaBeouf and Christian Slater – both of whom struggle with their accents – pale in comparison.
However, I was a bit thrown by the casting of the lead character, the nymphomaniac, which is played by the angelic Stacy Martin in her youth and then the far more average-looking Charlotte Gainsbourg as an adult. I don’t know if this flower-to-fern transformation was just a poor casting decision or an intentional commentary about the transformation of the character as she ages. That aside, they both delivered.
And Gainsbourg appears to be the focus for much of Nymphomaniac Volume II, the sequel that looks like it focuses on the character’s adulthood. It should be out in theaters in early April 2014. And, yes, I will be there.
As for my overall impression of Nymphomaniac Volume I, I didn’t find the film to be particularly erotic. It was more of a character study, an interesting and at times even fascinating tale about life, love, and the way people behave. And I certainly learned a lot more than I normally learn from watching a movie that isn’t some sort of documentary, which was quite unexpected and pleasant.
Update: Volume II
I didn’t like Nymphomaniac Vol. II as much as Vol. I. It lost some of the edge, the novelty, and her life was less intriguing as an adult. I guess her journey into nymphomania was more interesting than the manifestation of it. Plus, I didn’t like the ending. I understood it, why he did it that way, but I would have preferred that it not end like that.