Margaret from the Australian TV show At the Movies reviewed the controversial Lars von Trier film and here’s what she had to say:
Lars von Trier’s epic four hour NYMPHOMANIAC is framed by a dialectic between Seligman – Stellen Skarsgard – and Joe – Charlotte Gainsbourg – the woman he rescues from an alley near his home. She’s been bashed. As she recovers in his pyjama top over a cup of tea, the story of her self-proclaimed sinful life is revealed. She has been from an early age voraciously and boldly promiscuous. Joe – in Volume 1 played by Stacy Martin – asks local moped rider Jerome – Shia La Boeuf – to put an end to her virginity. And then she and a schoolfriend trawl a train in a competition to bed the most men on it.
Seligman’s non-judgmental riffs into fly fishing, into Fibonacci numbers, into eastern/western religion are a counterpoint to Joe’s frank descriptions of her encounters.
I am a fan of Lars von Trier, I think he has a boldness about his filmmaking that is admirable. But this venture into sexuality has such an undercurrent of sadism that I was, not repelled, but distanced. I don’t mind seeing sex on screen, erect penises, genitalia generally, I’m not easily offended. But I thought there was an intellectual showiness on display here, as well as, I hate to say, a tediousness. Actual sex – and it’s explicitly stated that none of the performers partook of the actual – is a bit of a yawn. So what is he trying to achieve here? Is it shock for shock’s sake. I don’t think so. But what I do feel is that he hasn’t imbued the film with enough intellectual weight to make it make it matter that much. Seligman’s digressions seem self-indulgent, too abstruse to really have an impact on the narrative. Performances are solid, and daring, Stacy Martin particularly impressive as the young Joe, Jamie Bell very convincing as an S & M therapist. And von Trier’s current muse Charlotte Gainsbourg and his great ally Skarsgard are stoic.