Nymphomaniac Vol. 1
That time in every male cinephiles life when the criteria to select a movie is quite simple; it must include a combination of gore, violence and sex in various combinations. Of course, this period of time pertains to film buffs just passed puberty in possession of a Y-chromosome. The main source of recommendations will movies came from Playboy’s annual ‘Sex and the Cinema’ in the Catholic weekly newspaper, ‘The Tablet’, paint particular interest to those rated ‘C’, for condemned. Recommendations from these sources and word-of-mouth in the schoolyard were fundamentally the criteria of what films we wanted to see. Of course this usually required some form of fake ID to get past the person in the ticket booth. Many of these films that were cited in the sources were actually quite significant, cinematic point of view exploring themes of the social interest. Of course, that was not the primary interest for us. Now as adults, become a force movies that would has fallen into these categories, but now you’re actually concerned with the deeper meaning and social relevance of why the director included the once forbidden subject matter. A number of the movies that we snuck into were from the Scandinavian countries such as ‘Inga’ or ‘The Color Yellow’. The movie on the consideration here, ‘Nymphomaniac’ by Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier, renowned in the cinematic community as a visionary and a man with a unique visual style. His works are often critically acclaimed and considered intriguingly enigmatic. An example would be his recent foray into fantasy ‘Melancholia’. Another attribute common to his movies are they are rather lengthy, the uncut version of the movie review here times in at over 5 ½ hours. Understandably, that is considerably too long, even for release in art-house. As such, it has been reedited to two volumes; the first of which will be covered here.
The movie opens with a middle aged man, Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), as he happens to come across a woman, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg). It is quickly established that he is a bachelor and she considers herself a nymphomaniac. Joe has been badly beaten and left in the alley where Seligman discovered her. He brings her back to his apartment to look after her injuries. While he was tending to her Joe opens up to him and begins to tell him her life story. This establishes the narrative format that will assist both volumes of the film. By adopting an episodic approach, the filmmaker is fundamentally giving us a collection of short stories that collectively provide the story of a very diverse and interesting life. As these strangers begin to become comfortable in each other’s presence, Joe opens up with the most intimate details of her life. Her narration of this autobiographical tale is extremely frank and provides the audience with a far deeper understanding, not only of what it would be like to be a nymphomaniac, but more importantly an exploration of human sexuality.
The Compleat Angler
Joe notices that her rescuer is a fishing enthusiast. There’s a hand-tied fishing lure on the wall behind her and discovers that Izaak Walton's book "The Compleat Angler" is one of Seligman’s favorite works of literature. This leads her into recanting some of the earliest recollections of her own sexuality. It all began at a very young age, approximately 2 years old, when she became infatuated with her own genitalia. As is not uncommon for child, Joe begins experimenting with various childish means of self-stimulation. When she grew to grade school level Joe (Maja Arsovic), continued her experimentation along with her best friend B (Sofie Kasten). Together the pair playfully devised different means of masturbation. One of their favorites was the use the showerhead the cover the bathroom floor with a layer of water. They would then remove their panties and rub themselves along the floor. At one point his playful activities were disrupted by a knock on the door; Joe’s mother (Connie Nielsen), a stern woman that Joe describes as a "cold bitch". Joe was much closer to her father (Christian Slater), who shared with his daughter’s love for trees, especially his favorite, the ash.
Joe (Stacy Martin), now a young woman, decides to lose her virginity and has selected a young man, Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf), someone she had selected at random and had no relationship with. She tells Seligman that Jerôme penetrated her three times vaginally followed by five anally. Seligman notes that those of the first two numbers of the Fibonacci sequence. Some years later, Joe is still friends with B ((Sophie Kennedy Clark), who makes a bet with Joe to have multiple sexual encounters with random people on the train. The prize for success was a bag of candy. Over some pastry Joe tells Seligman about what she considered a first encounter with love. Joe and B form a club of sorts, ‘The Little Flock’, with the purpose of liberating themselves from the entanglements of love. They considered that a motion to be little more than the harmful combination of lust and jealousy. While this association goes beyond the two friends Joe soon leaves it as other members begin to become involved with relationships. Joe’s life begins to be disrupted by obsession with sex. She winds up dropping out of medical school and finds her first job, ironically working for Jerôme. She diligently avoids all the overtures. The young man has made and instead has sex with other coworkers ultimately fired by Jerôme’s uncle (Jesper Christensen), the actual owner of the company.
Joe is fairly indiscriminate about her choice and lovers, particularly the amount status. In the case of H (Hugo Speer), you’ll to familiar scenario played out. At one point Mrs. H (Uma Thurman), burst into confront Joe in front of her sons leading to a nervous breakdown for the lover’s wife. In the midst of all this another one of Joe’s lovers enters the scene. This section highlights how her sexual obsession has not only disrupted whole life, but actively destroys the lives of others.
This section begins Seligman steering the conversation to Edgar Allen Poe, particularly the delirium tremens he experienced as a result of his alcoholism. This brings Joe’s memories back to the last time she saw her father. She was the only one to visit him in the hospital while he was dying of cancer. A father’s apologetic for his wife’s not being there asking Joe not to hold her fear of hospitals against her. Before his death, his condition degrades into violent outbursts and spasms.
The Little Organ School
The story returns to Jerôme as just before one of Joe’s regular constitutionals he seeks Joe out because she just broke up with his uncle, secretary, Liz (Felicity Gilbert). Joe Jerôme begin to have passionate sex but Joe finds herself readily distracted and realizes that she is devoid of any feeling; she is no longer able to achieve any degree of pleasure from sex.
For the modern batch teenage boys who might be interested in this film solely on the merits of the title they will be quite disappointed. True, there is a significant amount of nudity and sexual activity comes, of course, has rather clinical. Of course, when you consider the overall tone of the film and obvious intention of the filmmaker, this is precisely what is called for. The purpose of this first half of the movie is to introduce a Joe into affliction. Its etiology can be traced back to what is considered a person’s earliest curiosity in this sexuality. Even then, the difference was not that Joe had these urges but even at a young age, they began to eclipse every other aspect of our ability for socialization. Eroticism gives way to tragedy here as we see this obsession not only destroying any hope of happiness that Joe might have but leaving in its wake a swatch of emotional devastation. The setting, the filmmaker devised to tell the story was inspired. Providing the narrative in a conversational manner is highly conducive to connecting with the audience. We are in a real sense that man who took Joe in to tend to her physical injuries, only to discover she was far more severely damaged psychologically.