From director Lars "I sympathise with Adolf Hitler" Von Trier, the man who recently brought us such demented genius as Antichrist and Melancholia, we now have his epic two-volume take on sex and lust. With one of the leading roles filled by Shia "I wear paper bags to premieres now" LaBeouf, this certainly is a movie that is destined to get an extreme reaction from the audience. Although, the audience themselves might be slightly disappointed by what that reaction will actually be…
Opening with Stellan Skarsgard finding a bruised, bloody and unconscious Charlotte Gainsbourg down a back alley, he brings her back to his apartment to wash the blood off, and while feeding her tea and cake, she tells him her life story of sex-addiction. From her childhood with loving father Christian Slater (whose British accent seems stuck on "Toff"), to her teenage years with a female friend who viewed sex as a competition, to her complicated relationship with Shia LaBeouf (whose British accent seems stuck on "Australian"); she tries to shock him with her tales of sexual proclivities and the lives she’s ruined along the way, and he just shrugs it off with an abstract simile.
Throughout the film, Von Trier tries to use some sledgehammer metaphors for sex addiction. From fishing lures to musical notes to mathematical theorems, each of them start off as a funny take on the subject matter, but are soon flogged to death into becoming uninteresting. Which also spreads out to how the very, very explicit sex is portrayed, as Von Trier is not here to arouse or titillate, viewing sex as the cold, heartless vice of a cold, heartless addict.
Which leads us to the biggest issue of Nymphomaniac; portraying Gainsbourg’s character as a sociopath, someone who has no regrets or negative connotations about their conditions. No other addict, be it drugs or alcohol or whatever, would be viewed in such a harsh light, although that could be jumping the gun on the character before seeing the conclusion with Volume Two, which has got to be the biggest sequel "must-watch" since Kill Bill was split in two.
Von Trier has made a film that’s more interesting than good, and will raise more questions and debate about the subject of sex and lust than it has the inclination to answer itself. There is a lot to talk about here, just not a lot to enjoy.