MOVIE REVIEWS |
EDITORIALS | EVENTS |
EXAMINER.COM FILM ARTICLES
Saturday, April 5, 2014
MOVIE REVIEW Nymphomaniac Vol. II
Mr. Von Trier's Neighborhood And Its Visceral Volatility
Charlotte Gainsbourg and Papou in Lars Von Trier's "Nymphomaniac Vol. II".
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
The second half of Lars Von Trier's "Nymphomaniac", aka
"Nymphomaniac Vol. II", is a visceral, blunt force trauma for the viewer,
projected from the bowels of a director whose lead character digs deeper into
her humanity rather than apologize for it. Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is
an anarchist if not an outright nihilist. Her passionless philosophical
exchanges and debates with her host Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) remain tedious
and banal though are more urgent.
Joe tortures herself for her hypersexual activity but rebels against the staid
society that stigmatizes her. That society remains unseen on screen but
Mr. Von Trier,
who made comments at Cannes three years ago about Nazis,
is speaking directly to the audience. He, through Joe, calls us
hypocrites, artificial beings who safely shun their true selves for distance,
elevation and self-righteousness. Mr. Von Trier, however, more than
occasionally engineers these assertions through layers of pretension and élan.
His imagery is relatively safe even as Joe's sexual adventures become more
sadist and masochistic, causing her to put her marriage and motherhood at risk.
"Nymphomaniac" is Mr. Von Trier's inner monologue, a labored but intriguing
four-hour answer to his Cannes calamity. Mr. Von Trier wants freedom, and
he advocates that nature represents freedom, no matter how dangerous that nature
is. We are drawn to the forbidden, for it excites us, he posits. We
are drawn to danger because it keeps us alive. We are turned on by what a
puritanical and sanctimoniously moral society says we're not supposed to be.
These aren't novel revelations in "Nymphomaniac Vol. II" but defiant statements
through Joe's behavior and the mathematical analytical discussions and names (M,
K, P, Mrs. H, etc.) that form a curious algebra. The bees and birds we see
are but a mere preview of the wolves and sacrificial lambs to come. Primal
beasts will reign.
Like any of us Joe is an inherently complex character. Joe's self-hatred
and self-abandon is betrayed by her fierce commitment to non-violence even as
her sexual appetites and addictions cause great violence to herself. Ms.
Gainsbourg perfectly represents the yin and yang of Joe, her face both angelic
and harshly angular, at times even Paleolithic. Such is the discourse
between she and Mr. Skarsgard that they seem to be classmates studying for a
final exam about sex, diagnosing sex as an illness rather than a natural human
behavior. Seligman says he is asexual. He is confounded by Joe,
fascinated, jealous, curious and repelled by her. These are feelings Mr.
Von Trier fully expects his audience to experience.
Mr. Von Trier is a relentless, restless provocateur, eager to stir thought as
much as he is sheer outrage. An atheist by trade, he's liable to pour
gasoline on a church and set it on a hellish blaze. In "Vol. II" he
specializes in destroying the property of the affluent, indicting their
vicissitudes and limitations almost to the point of pity. In one scene
Joe, delivers a sexual punch-line that is self-congratulation and endorsement
and a volatile stir of feelings.
A scene with two naked black men, erections in medium close-up as they argue in
an African language over which of them will have sex first with Joe is clearly
designed to make you cringe, laugh or boil over in anger. Yet it could be
an indictment of racial stereotype, an endorsement of it, or both. If
societies weren't racist a non-pornographic image of two black men and a white
woman together sexually wouldn't be an issue or push buttons, and I think that's
the larger point Mr. Von Trier is making, however incendiary or insulting some
will feel the image in the film is.
The chapters that play throughout Mr. Von Trier's four-hour dissertation of
anthropology and base -- seven chapters if I remember correctly -- could be
modeled on Marcel Proust's legendary In Search Of Lost Time, the epic
seven-part novel which includes chapters about young girls, fugitives and
prisoners, each of which Joe is. (Joe's child in "Vol. II" is named
Marcel, and she perceives herself as constantly being judged by him.) Mr.
Von Trier has shown a derision, even distaste of children as meddlesome and
useless creatures, a source of deep guilt for adults ("Anti-Christ") or grateful
sacrifice ("Dancer In The Dark").
Joe, a self-persecutor who represents part of a larger Sodom and Gomorrah (also
in Proust's writings), wants freedom of sexual exploration for a higher truth
about herself as a person but she's somewhat trapped by it. Joe's biggest
orgasmic release, of the many she has, is her completion of the epic story of
her sexual life that she has told her singular captive male, Seligman.
Throughout the film, there's a wildlife in reverse, enacted by humans indulging
in animal acts. There's a pleasant satisfaction Joe, herself a
provocateur, wears as she finishes her tale. It's a release of tension and
relief that brings her peace. Joe seems to have tortured Seligman
psychologically at the same time. "You have fucked thousands of men," he
intones, in anger and bewilderment.
"Nymphomaniac Vol. II" or its
predecessor aren't about sex as much as punishment and the
gratification its enactment brings. The film is about the mental attitude
toward sex, not the physical language it embodies. All of Joe's sexual
encounters are acted out as rebellion, contempt or anger. Joe has no safe
words with K (Jamie Bell), who treats her like a horse at the Kentucky Derby.
Joe indulges the spankings and their resulting orgasmic pleasures. Many
who watch Mr. Von Trier's film no doubt enjoy these acts as turn-ons privately.
It's a calculated move, an equation tested by director for its desired effect.
I don't think any of "Nymphomaniac" is meant to be titillating but Mr. Von Trier
shows us things societies have highly objectified or deemed controversial.
At times he could be having fun at the audience's expense, with characters who
defend racist or sexist utterances as natural human responses however repulsive.
"Vol. II" is less scenic, more urgent and spare. Part comedy, part
tragedy, the film is a mix of pop-art, agitation, professorial tutorial and
bedtime story for grown-ups. "Nymphomaniac Vol. II" sometimes is a
preachy, condescending article (predictable conversation about double standards
regarding a woman's sexual exploits) but I think it is also a genuine one.
Its most skillful touch is the one that comes in its climax (no pun intended), a
revelation consistent with an unmasking that in retrospect isn't truly
surprising, even though it stunned me at the time. Mr. Von Trier knows
very well what he's doing, and like Michael Haneke he often does it quite well,
though he's more spectacularly extravagant and far less discreet with the
potency of his imagery.
With: Stacy Martin, Shia LaBoeuf, Willem Dafoe, Uma Thurman.
"Nymphomaniac Vol. II" is not rated by the Motion Picture Association Of
America. It contains graphic male and female full frontal nudity, strong
explicit sexual content, bodily fluids, extremely harsh sexual violence and language. The film's running time is
two hours and four minutes.
COPYRIGHT 2014. POPCORNREEL.COM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
MOVIE REVIEWS |
EDITORIALS | EVENTS |
| PHOTOS |
EXAMINER.COM FILM ARTICLES