Review: Nymphomaniac Part 1
Mixing the eloquent and the pointless and dressing up his profane observations with intellectual frosting, Lars Von Trier presents Nymphomnia Part 1, the first part of a three-hour-plus feeding frenzy of lust and guilt. Loveless sex holds court as Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), found bloodied on the street, reluctantly tells her rescuer (Stellan Skarsgard) her story.
Shown in flashbacks with a younger actress (Stacy Martin), Joe is both consumed with shamefulness and quick to defend her sordid past. “For every 100 crimes committed in the name of love’” she says, there’s “one committed in the name of lust.” I’m not sure the burgeoning global problem of sexual slavery is factored into that equation, but she goes on to add “love Is just lust with jealousy added.” Her friend, who shares her fondness of promiscuity beginning at the age of 15, later whispers to her, “the secret ingredient of good sex is love.” Joe, not so easily converted, goes on to have as many as 10 separate sexual encounters in a single evening. She assigns single letters of the alphabet to her different men before actually rolling the dice to inform the level of friendliness or rejection in her response to their phone calls.
There’s sex galore but also much talk of fly fishing, Fibonacci number sequences, ash trees, the appropriateness of cake forks, delirium tremors, tritone’s demonic past, and polyphony in Bach. Although it’s less trite than you might think (Skarsgard can make the most rarefied subject seem at least somewhat interesting), this is clearly not one of Von Trier’s near masterpieces. Breaking The Waves or Melancholia it is not. It’s more like the intermittently provacative but ultimately listless Dogville, with penises and vaginas taking the place of empty sound stages. Essentially about loneliness and destruction, Nymphomaniac, at least in its first part, is only too happy to yield any higher concerns to Joe’s observation that life sucks because “we’re all waiting to die.” Skarsgard doesn’t want her to blame herself for her addiction but she she can’t help the self-pity. When Uma Thurman brings her three kids over so they can see “the whoring bed” where their recently abandoning father is now spending his time, everyone cringes except Joe.
This inability to feel will significantly rear its head again in the film. Will Lars go deeper with this theme in Part Two, or will he settle for spouting more cockamamie claptrap perhaps meant to camouflage what remains a light-hardcore porn flick with two accomplished actors?