Review: ‘Nymphomaniac Vol.2’ 9.5.14

Well what can I say other than Lars you really outdid yourself and surprised even me this time around. Whereas Vol.1 was almost a walk in the park, Vol.2 goes straight down the rabbit hole into darkness and depravity. He might as well have named the 2 volumes “Night” and “Day”. Vol.2 goes to lengths even I was surprised LVT, or his actors for that matter, were willing to go. We essentially pick up right where we left off in Vol.1 except Joe (Stacy White) is now in committed relationship with Jerome (a gutsy performance by Shia LaBeouf). It continues to be told in flashback, with the Charlotte Gainsbourg character reciting her story of how she became to be a “nymphomaniac” to Stellan Skarsgard, the man who comes to her rescue at the beginning of Vol.1. Joe, feeling dissatisfied with her new domestic life, decides to break things off and continue on her odyssey of sexual exploration. If in Vol.1, she was exploring her “awakening”. I would say Vol.2 depicts her exploring her perversions. We soon jump forward a few years, and the old Joe (Martin) is now the new Joe (Gainsbourg) and this change in time also corresponds with a paradigm shift in the film. Joe now is willing to go to whatever length, at whatever costs, to fulfill her sexual fantasies. That’s essentially a loose story line of Vol. 2. The major difference between the 2 films, is that Vol.2 really starts to up the ante and becomes almost borderline exploitative. Which can be a good or bad thing depending on what your threshold is for this type of material. While I found a lot of it to feel rather banal and slightly nihilistic which is I guess to be expected when you’re exploring sadomasochism, fetishism, homosexuality, and pedophilia. It sometimes felt excruciatingly painful to watch at times, which was really my only criticism of the piece. It tended to go a little too far over the edge, and I found myself cringing and feeling extremely uncomfortable of what I was being shown at times. Which I guess is all part of the challenge, at least for me. Where it’s strong points lay were in it’s unbelievably bold performances, particularly that of the young Joe (White), as well as the older (Gainsbourg). I also thought the use of classical music infused with the works of Bach and Wagner set to scenes of extreme debauchery to be rather effective (like Kubrick did with “A Clockwork Orange”). That, and two other things that stuck out were how he tied in this last film of his “Depression Trilogy” with the others that proceeded it (“Antichrist”, “Melancholia”). There was one scene in particular where I thought LVT was actually going to start over and replay the beginning of “Antichrist”. Which I thought would have been a brilliant move. Also a very intentional one on LVT’s part to play with and tease the audience a little. And it mostly worked for me. Lastly, I really liked the statement of what he was trying to say about the nature of humanity in the climax. Like many people I put a rather large emphasis on a film’s ending, and what he does here I thought was rather brilliant. It really got me thinking. As with other LVT films, this is yet another in his ever expanding oeuvre of thought-provoking, challenging films. My only question that stands is, where on earth is Lars Von Trier going to take us next? I don’t know if I want to find out.

Grade: B

 

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