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Review: NYMP()MANIAC [Parts I and II] (Lars Von Trier, 2014)

Posted on the 28 March 2014 by Andrewbuckle22
Lars Von Trier's provocative two-part four-hour drama of sex, lust, addiction, degradation, violence and psychological association, Nymphomaniac, hit Australian screens yesterday. Parts I and II (cut, censored versions of a larger, more outrageously indulgent 5 1/2 hour cut that have a staggered release at prominent International Film Festivals over the course of 2014) tells the story of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a now middle-aged self-diagnosed nymphomaniac. On a cold winter’s evening a forgiving asexual bachelor and literature and philosophy enthusiast, Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), finds Joe beaten up in an alley. He brings her home to his modestly furnished flat where he cares for her wounds and allows her to rest, before inquiring about her life. As it turns out, she's a very willing storyteller, recounting (in somewhat excruciating detail over the eight chapters, which span both Parts I and II) her blossoming sexuality as a youngster and her various jobs and relationships, all the way through to the events of the evening she was found. Seligman listens intently to the multifaceted story of her life, interjecting to comment and offer his opinion and try to attempt to relate to her affliction and struggles.
Review: NYMP()MANIAC [Parts I and II] (Lars Von Trier, 2014)
While I found this idea a fascinating one, I felt immediately that the approach was misguided. The flashback/forward structure soon grew wearying, as we listen to Gainsbourg and Skarsgard discuss the sequences we have just witnessed, but in a playful tone which altogether dismisses some of the behavior (forgiving it, for the most part) and then re-evaluates it through far-fetched juxtapositions and deriving meaning where it isn't due. I get that Von Trier is having us on with all of this, but the gleeful, excitable way Seligman latches on to one aspect of Joe's debaucherous lifestyle and digresses into a barely-relatable anecdote is a really smug, annoying layer that I found less than amusing.
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