Posts From Author: willem dafoe

“Hey Joe, where are you going…?”: Lars von Trier’s NYMPH()MANIAC, Vol. II

SPOILERS throughout! Also, well worth seeing Vol. I, which I reviewed here, before seeing Vol. II, which offers no recap for the uninitiated. NYMPH()MANIAC Vol. II is a fist to the throat, a film raw with despair. It picks up where Vol. I left off, with Joe’s anguish over her sudden loss of sexual feeling, and documents the lengths to which she goes to feed her mania and achieve a sense of wholeness. Vol. II is the evil twin of Vol. I. A.O. Scott in the New York Times wrote that Vol. I is “(relatively speaking) the fun part”. Well, the playfulness and humour are largely gone, replaced with scenes of such deep unpleasantness that one of my fellow audience members was moved to say Damn! five times over the course of the film. Monogamy with Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf) and motherhood have left Joe (Stacy Martin, then Charlotte Gainsbourg) unfulfilled. Her sexual appetites grow more extreme and more niche. She decides at first that she must attempt sex without possible recourse to verbal communication, and manages to procure a couple of African men (Kookie Ryan and Papou) from the street opposite her flat. Still not satisfied, she applies to become the object in a sadomasochistic salon run by the colourless, ascetic […]
Read More

“Go for the pleasure first, always”: Lars von Trier’s NYMPH()MANIAC, Vol. I

Spoilers throughout. Be warned. “I discovered my cunt as a two-year-old,” says Charlotte Gainsbourg’s Joe a few minutes into Lars von Trier’s new film, NYMPH()MANIAC. Forgive the language — but if part of the purpose of reading criticism is to assess what one might want to see or read, it’s important to be upfront: this is an extremely graphic film, sexually. Still, if you enter Joe’s story with the open-mindedness of her samaritan-confessor, Stellan Skarsgård, there’s much to enjoy. Trailer just about safe for work — but careful what you google: NYMPH()MANIAC is the third film in von Trier’s informal trilogy on the theme of depression that began with Antichrist (2009) and was followed by Melancholia (2011). Like its predecessors, NYMPH()MANIAC features a hyper-stylised opening sequence that sets the tone for the rest of the film. First we see nothing — but we hear the drip-drip-trickle of rainwater and the distant sound of trains. Then the opening shot, a deserted alleyway, played in silence. A series of beautiful close-ups follow, sound reattached: rain falling on dustbin lids, an abysmal vent in a grimy wall. Cut to a wide shot of Gainsbourg lying wounded and unconscious, and a stunning, abrupt blast of Rammstein on the soundtrack, reminiscent of Michael Haneke’s use […]
Read More