Title: Nymphomaniac: Vol. I & II
Country: Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium, UK
Director: Lars von Trier
Writers: Lars von Trier
Cinematography: Manuel Alberto Claro
Sophie Kennedy Clark
Christian Gade Bjerrum
A 4-hour binge watching of provocateur Lars von Trier’s latest feminist saga (divided into two volumes) is a candid confession of a middle-age nymphomaniac Joe (Gainsbourg, doughtily consummates her enthralling rendering in von Trier’s Trilogy of Depression, after ANTICHRIST 2009 and MELANCHOLIA 2011), out of self-hatred, she chronicles her deviant life from childhood to present, to an elder Jewish polymath Seligman (Skarsgård), who brings her home after finding her lying on the street afflicted from a savage assault.
Dividing the narrative by eight chapters (five of which is named after things Joe spots at the stark room they are staying, and the rest three are Jerôme, Ms. H and Delirium) , Joe and Seligman set about a chamber conversation where Joe relates her sexual experiences and personal battle of being a nymphomaniac while Seligman pleasingly proffers some metonymical digressions eruditely drifting from fly-fishing, classical music (Bach’s cantos firmus and Beethoven’s fugue), religions (Eastern church’s bliss-provoking icon to Catholic church’s weight on suffering, meanwhile Seligman is a non-believer and an anti-Zionist), and paraphrasing Joe’s comment, the dullest one is about the Prusik knot.
The vigorous and informative two-hander plays off intermittently between the flashbacks of Joe’s exploration of her sexuality, in the volume one, a young Joe (splendidly portrayed by the débutante Stacy Martin) commits herself in promiscuity to kick against the stale notion of “love” with her bestie B (Sophie Kennedy Clark, an exceptional veer from the young Philomena Lee in PHILOMENA 2013), winning a sex contest on the train by performing a fellatio to a passenger who is en route to impregnate his wife, being a disinclined home wrecker of H’s family (a welcoming Uma Thurman reverting in the groove as Ms. H, with three young sons tailing along to face off with the other woman). At the end of the day, Joe falls for her virginity-snatcher Jerôme (LaBeouf), as love Is the secret ingredient of sex, when her life is back on a normal track, incomprehensibly and precipitately, she lost all her sexual desire. This is the coda of Vol. I.
In Vol. II, Joe plunges into the imperative venture to regain her sexuality, she bears a boy with Jerôme and opts for C-section hoping to rehabilitate her vagina, engages in interracial threesome, finally, gives in to the sadomasochistic therapy with K (Jamie Bell, a transformative endeavour as the young domineering sadist) at the expense of her relationship with Jerôme and her child.
Segueing into the next paragraph, the film veers into a masculine aggression facet of Joe’s character revelation (almost she is always the one who initiates in all kinds of sex activities), now she actually utilises her experience and knowledge to succeed in the niche as a debt collector, and eventually develops a lesbian liaison with her young disciple P (Mia Goth), then the movie descends into a dire quandary when P cheats on her with Jerôme (Michael Pas substitutes for LaBeouf here, although non-simultaneous cast-alteration is quite perplexing) and after a futile assassination, Joe is whipsawed by the betrayal of P (with the taste of her urine) and a ruthless reenactment of her humiliation with the 3+5 Fibonacci sequence numbers about her virginity.
That’s the story before Seligman found her on the street, throughout the film, von Trier deploys intricate cinematic tricks to unflinchingly titillate viewers’ perception about how to deal with or accept our innate lust with diverting enlightenment, like the opening audio-only 3-minute prepares us for a journey chockablock with vicariously sensational feelings, a graphic exhibition of genitals, PPT-alike slides interposed laboriously to clarify the cerebral notions pointed by Seligman, not to mention the symbolic soul-searching process through wintry trees for Joe through the influence of her late father (Slater).
Ultimately, the film reaches its climactic conclusion, Seligman is a self-claimed virgin, an asexual man predominantly basks in books, in other words, the perfect antithesis of Joe, the final humanistic touch of von Trier is to shuck off the theoretical benevolence and shatter the veneer to uncloak the intrinsic hypocrisy with an in-your-face smack, libido overrides sensibilities most of the time, fashionably-coined terminology doesn’t define who you are, we falls into von Trier’s cynical subterfuge involuntarily, nevertheless, it is upbeat and gratifying in the realm of my own POV.