Nymphomaniac: Volume I Movie Review
Is it a sin to take one bad movie and turn it into two? Twilight: Breaking Dawn definitely suggests that is the case. And so if that statement is true, then it must be acknowledged that celebrated director Lars von Trier has committed his own sin, refusing to acknowledge that his four-hour epic about a sex addict didn’t need to be four hours.
Nymphomaniac was split into two parts because Von Trier, the man behind such fascinating films as Dogville and Antichrist, but also the guy who decries Hollywood conventions so much that he makes fascinating films like Dogville and Antichrist, was unwilling to edit his footage down to a more reasonable runtime.
Viewing both parts as one long movie, Nymphomaniac is easily the worst Lars Von Trier movie I have ever seen. Why?
It. Is. So. Fucking. Boring.
The movie alternates between a sequence of scenes where Charlotte Gainsbourg, as beaten-to-a-pulp nymphomaniac Joe, tells her life story to the creepy man who rescued her (Stellan Skarsgaard), and her life story, which has Joe (played by a variety of actresses of different ages, most notably Stacy Martin) fucking, blowing and masturbating her way through life.
Skarsgaard’s Seligman spends most of Volume I comparing Joe’s sex life to fly fishing, establishing just how dull, weird and obnoxious he really is as a character. Gainsbourg’s storytelling technique is so to-the-point and straightforward that you quickly lose interest, and that’s with three and a half hours left to go.
As dull as Nymphomaniac is, there are segments that work. Many of the flashbacks to Joe’s early days are well made or even interesting, but pieced together they paint an overly detailed portrait of the troubled woman and her “adventures.” Volume II’s focus on sadomasochism isn’t at all fun to watch, to the point where I started fast-forwarding.
Nymphomaniac, like so many of Von Trier’s films, is an experiment. Unfortunately, this experiment fails. And to turn that experiment into not just one but two bad movies is a sin I won’t soon forget.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.