Monday, April 21, 2014

Nymphomaniac Vol. II Review

Previously on Nymphomaniac...


...and now the thrilling conclusion.

But seriously, looking back at Nymphomanic Vol. I, I joke that all that could be remembered about the movie was the constant barrage of pretty sex scenes, but that's all there really was to remember about the movie. It was two separate movies that were squished together, one that explored the character of Jo as she narrated her life to Seligman, and the other being Seligman analyzing the stories that Jo told and making several analogies and observations about them. Artsy? Yes, but I would heavily debate calling it necessary or even engaging.

Vol. II picks up right where the first half left off and Jo beginning to transition into the adult years of her life and what led her to being found by Seligman beaten up in an alley. It's more of the same of Vol. I, but this time it's A LOT more messed up. As in, there is murder, sadomasochism, and even got really close to child murder. That's right, there was nearly a child death shown in this movie and yes, it was very, very disturbing to see. I was cringing in my seat thinking that they were actually going to kill a child, but it was a distinct possibility.
It's some intense S&M here
Much more than the last movie, we delve into what makes Jo a very broken person, both mentally and physically, and see the depths that she will go to to maintain her nymphomania. Even after the point where Jo no longer has sexual gratification from what she does, she still is a nympho and experiments to get that same feeling of arousal. Even by going through the 39 lashes by a dominant master. Jo is fascinating to watch grow from the young girl who seduced men in bathroom stalls on subways on a whim to the woman who nearly abandons her family just so she can get a sexual thrill out of life.

And while we're on the subject of fascination, the movie has a distinct desire to appear intelligent and artful at every single opportunity that it gets. Every experience that Jo has is related to something artful and meaningful, like when Jo is compared to the whore of Babylon and the souls of trees being the souls of people. In other words, this movie is very droll, boring, and tries to add meaning to every single little aspect of it. Yes this is an art house film, but that doesn't mean that everything in the movie is art. They try to make art of out Jo being in a threesome with two black men who don't speak English. I'm not here to say that some things can't be art, but don't claim that watching a person masturbate on their bed into art; it just isn't.

And speaking of how everything is interpreted as art, most of the characters speak in a bland, boring tone of voice that makes them think that... okay, I'm just going to come out and say this, but after sitting through both parts of Nymphomaniac, this movie is unbelievably pretentious. I haven't seen a movie in a long time that was this pretentious, but my oh my do I so care less about it. I was fully aware that this movie was an art house movie given the pedigree of Lars Von Trier, the director, but this just seemed over the top, even for him. I've seen Dancer in the Dark, a dark and mesmerizing musical that ends in complete tragedy and despair, and it was good. This movie though just seems to make everything bigger than it really is and adds meaning to every little nook and cranny of the movie. If Jo is pointing out that Seligman is pretentious for trying to equate everything to a thought provoking sentiment, then your movie is pretentious.

Burning cars set on fire by nymphomaniacs just happen in England
As a whole, the movie is slow, pretentious, not interesting, and takes too long to get to any good moment. That being said, when the movie is good, the scenes are enchanting to watch. I may have mentioned last time that the Mrs. H scene with Uma Thurman was great to see, but from this movie alone, the scene where Jo meets K the sadist is great as well as the ending. Not to spoil the ending at all, but during the credits the song "Hey Joe", made famous by Jimi Hendrix, was played, and it felt completely natural given the last ten minutes of the movie. I'll give Nymphomaniac Vol. II this though, when it paid off, it really paid off.

The last few moments of the movie are some truly dark and biting moments, and by that I mean you can feel Jo getting stabbed and the knife being twisted in her, figuratively speaking that is. I just wish that it was shown without it being compared to James Bond and how guns work. But therein lies the biggest problem with Nymphomaniac; it always has to explain everything instead of let the audience see what is happening. When we see Jo being whipped 39 times for k's sexual gratification, we don't need to hear narration from Jo explain how she was moving her vagina to the rhythm of the beatings to experience an orgasm. As long as we can see it, that should be enough, but instead we have Jo telling us about it, ruining the tone of the scene.

I'm at a loss on how I should review this movie. Should I give it a ranking based on just Vol. II, or by combining both the movies together? In this case, I'm going to combine them both into one solid review, because you can't see Vol. II without having the perceptions of Vol. I floating around in your head as well. They compliment each other to the best of their abilities, but that isn't saying much. If the movie was trimmed a bit with less narration and more onscreen action between characters, then this would have been a serviceable, if lacking, character piece. Instead, we have a pretentious art house movie that tries to make everything it does grand and important when it really isn't. That's why as a whole, I give Nymphomaniac 3 out of 5 stars, and it just BARELY got the rating because of the few good scenes that are a joy to watch.


Can I finally get a must see movie of the year please...?

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