August 17th, 2014 | Film | 0 Comments
Since I saw Lars Von Trier‘s excellent Nymphomaniac: Volume I, I’ve been anxious to see Volume II, but for one reason or another, simply didn’t. Until it finally appeared on Netflicks here in America.
Though the film’s score on Rotten Tomatoes is lower than that of its predecessor, there was no drop in quality or audacity across the halves. If anything, in a number of ways, Volume II is the more interesting film, following Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) through an odyssey-like journey, as she moves through different jobs, sexual partners and experimentations, and phases of life.
At the end of Volume I, Joe had finally found some measure of happiness when she hooked up with Jerome (Shia LaBeouf), with whom she has fallen in love. And just then, while having sex with him, she suddenly loses her ability to feel sexual pleasure. As we find her at the beginning of Volume II, this is a problem she is trying to deal with, but in the meantime, she marries Jerome, has a child with him, and is more or less happy, putting aside her lack of sexual pleasure. However, this happiness is not to last, and she begins cheating on Jerome with other men in an attempt to regain her feelings of sexual pleasure. She also begins visiting a man who runs something of a service for women who want to be violently abused in a sexual way. As a result of all this, her marriage with Jerome falls apart completely and she ends up leaving him and their child.
She gets fired from her job because it becomes apparent to those she’s working with that she is a nymphomaniac and her co-workers don’t feel comfortable with her around – and especially with her around their husbands. Joe, at the insistence of one of the higher ups at her job, joins a counselling group for women like herself, but comes to reject it and the notion that something is wrong with her because of her nymphomania. She finds work with a loan shark crew run by L (Willem Dafoe), and ends up recruiting and co-habitating with a 15-year-old girl she refers to as P (Mia Goth). Eventually her present and her past come to a head, and she winds up beaten on the ground, where she was first found at the beginning of Volume I.
As in Volume I, Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) will often break up her story to reflect upon it, and try and intellectually comprehend Joe’s life, decisions, and those she encounters along in her story.
There are points in the movie that seem a little ridiculous or far-fetched (and at the same time, totally predictable), but they make sense in the context of Lars Von Trier‘s audacious and unrestrained vision of the film. They are delivered with unacknowledged but apparent glee, as if this is Von Trier’s intellectual, European version of a grindhouse sexploitation film. Maybe even his answer to Tarantino’s Kill Bill - in fact, there are a considerable number of parallels between the two two-part films, both of which are stories told in non-linear, chapter-base fashion, of women living highly unconventional lives who embark on personal odysseys. Both also feature Uma Thurman.
I haven’t seen many Lars Von Trier films, but after watching volumes I & II of Nymphomaniac, I plan on exploring his filmography further. Nymphomaniac is a rare kind of cinematic masterpiece that only directors of incredible singular vision and skill can pull off, managing to be both deeply intellectual and yet consistently and pulpily entertaining; it’s shot with bold style, and features remarkable performances by a stellar cast of both established and lesser-known actors. Nymphomaniac, even by virtue of its title alone, no doubt, is not a movie for everyone, but those who appreciate a talented, experienced, and intelligent director fulling indulging himself and bringing the audience along with him, they might want to look into it.