Nymph()maniac (2014)

Stacy Martin and Shia LaBeouf nude in Nymphomaniac

A truly excellent long movie is a wonderful thing. Some of my favourite films time stretch over more than three hours – Once Upon a Time in America, Lawrence of Arabia, Short Cuts – with the runtimes allowing for extensive character development (much like television). More significantly, long movies have the opportunity to create – and, occasionally, diverge from – a consistent tone.

Nymphomaniac sustains such a tone over the four-plus hours of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg/Stacy Martin) recounting her sexual history to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) after he rescues her, bruised and bloody, from the street. Unfortunately, that tone never connected with me, with the film’s most resonant moments –a car engulfed in flames to the Talking Heads, insights like “Erotic is about saying yes” – departures from the norm.

The tone is deliberately drab; most scenes are interior shots, white-grey walls illuminated by yellow incandescent lights – fitting, given Seligman’s apartment is similarly plain and we’re never entirely sure of the veracity of Joe’s tales. Emotional engagement – the gutpunch that von Trier is normally so good at delivering – is muted by overt intellectualisation, Seligman analysing Joe’s stories like a stuffy …well, like a film critic.

Then again, to paraphrase Nymphomaniac: perhaps I’ve misunderstood the whole thing.

2.5 stars

8 thoughts on “Nymph()maniac (2014)

    • I don’t think it’s a bad film, necessarily, and perhaps one day I’ll revisit it. It’s intellectually very interesting as a kind of synecdoche of von Trier’s career and an examination of his take on art and criticism and life in general. But it rarely engaged me for a sustained period of time, which is a problem when the film runs for so long. I respect the film a great deal, but I can find many better uses for four-plus hours of my life.

    • I don’t know if it’s quite counted. But Dave definitely likes it far less than Mark did.

      When I finally see this, I hope I side more with the latter. 🙂

      • I imagine it’s a divisive film; I definitely appreciated it intellectually while not liking it a great deal as a complete package (though there are some fantastic moments, no doubt). Hope you enjoy – or maybe appreciate is the better word – it more than I did!

    • Whatever the film’s faults, it’s definitely intriguing. I wish it had been a stronger execution, because there are a lot of very interesting ideas here.

  1. Pingback: Sydney Film Festival: The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) | ccpopculture

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