Nymphomaniac Vol. I (2013)
Directed by: Lars von Trier
Written by: Lars von Trier
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Christian Slater, Connie Nielsen, Shia LaBeouf, Stacy Martin, Stellan Skarsgård, Uma Thurman
NYMPHOMANIAC VOL. I
Written and directed by Lars Von Trier
Available from Amazon
Lars Von Trier’s controversial NYMPHOMANIAC VOL. I is an emotional drama with erotic elements and theme due to the subject matter. The style in which Von Trier shoots reminds of the works of Tinto Brass. Whilst containing erotica, it’s done in quite a beautiful and dramatic way, not unlike Brass’ movies. That whole genre of erotic cinema seems to have disappeared from our screens, leaving us with either porn, torture porn in horror or nothing at all. Lars Von Trier’s NYMPHOMANIAC VOL. I is a refreshing tale that takes a serious look at nymphomania whilst injecting humour, sadness, tragedy and joy – emotions which we all experience through life. That’s not to say Joe isn’t rampant throughout the movie, she certainly is, but the focus isn’t always on the sex. It shows Joe’s approach to sex and her emotions to and because of it, as well as the relationships forged with her conquests and those around her.
Von Trier regular Charlotte Gainsbourg stars as Joe, though her role in the first volume is predominantly that of narrator, telling her story to Stellan Skarsgård’s fly-fishing enthusiast Seligman. It’s Stacy Martin who steals the show as Joe during her young adult years. Martin’s performance as a woman seeking to fulfill her carnal desires is a captivating one, from losing her virginity to Jerome (an Australian sounding Shia LaBeouf) to her appetite for 10 men a day. The touching scenes with her father, played by Christian Slater, and the awkward moments with Mr H (Huge Speer) and Mrs H (Uma Thurman) are brilliant, as are the early scenes with best friend B on the train as they attempt to score with as many men as possible before the train reaches its destination, with the winner ultimately presented with a bag of chocolate treats.
Beautifully shot with remarkable performances from all involved, NYMPHOMANIAC VOL. I is a stunning piece of cinema. There’s never a dull moment and even though there’s plenty of sex in the movie, it’s never distasteful. From a graphic content angle, there’s scenes of oral sex on both men and women, as well as a full view close-up of penetration (performed by pornographic body double actors but digitally manipulated onto the bodies of the professional actors), but I wouldn’t say it was over the top or overkill. This certainly isn’t porno and justifies the story, a narrative which Von Trier has cleverly put together, bookended by the thumping sounds of Rammstein.
Due to the running time, the film was split into two as two volumes. The first volume finishes on an important cliffhanger, as far as the story is concerned, and is very much the upbeat rise of Joe’s life before it all turns sour in Vol II, which I’ll be reviewing shortly.