Average User Score: 6.7Apr 11, 2014A woman with a thousand-yard stare looks out the window and introduces the next vignette with a goofy text delivered at glacial speed: "...andA woman with a thousand-yard stare looks out the window and introduces the next vignette with a goofy text delivered at glacial speed: "...and so, I became aware of my own feelings... my own body... my own...sex."
A passive sidekick, whom you suspect --because of the universal laws of porn-- will have a sex scene with her at some point, answers "I understand, Emanuelle, tell me more..." Cue music and Flashback. Rinse and repeat. Ad nauseum.
This is the traditional territory of movies like "Emannuelle in space" and other cinemax after dark gems, and also of Nymph()maniac, Lars Von Trier's weakest effort to date.
A key difference with "Emanuelle" (or given the boorish masochism "Ilsa the She-wolf of the SS,") is that Nymph()maniac doesn't need to stand on it's own merit as a movie, naked at 12:45 a.m. in Cinemax. On the contrary, Nymph()maniac has the benefit of an invisible imperial cloack (similar to Tarantino's, but more European) to cover itself: if something is cheesy, broken, or plain nonsensical, it can always be protected by the standard excuse: "you don't go to a von trier film for the story! you go for the provocation and to see the mind of the auteur."
And if apologies from the public are not convincing, Lars himself will tell you directly in the movie: "ok, I know it's not good, but how will you get more of my story? by believing it or not?"
The brute narrative structure is the first hint of the poverty ahead: Nymph()maniac, will leave astute viewers with the impression somebody is **** or bullying them, trying to sell something rather pedestrian as high art,something borrowed as something original, something conventional as taboo, and a copy of the von trier of old as the real thing.
The movie, a rehash of everything the author has done better elsewhere, is a good opportunity to review the standard conversation around him, in which the word "provocation" is usually front and center.
Provocation in Von Trier's terms means something like this: "put yourself through unpleasantness, disgust, or worse, boredom, and in return I shall provoke you with brutal insight and challenge your assumptions." Lets call this the Von Trier Bargain.
The Von Trier bargain works well when dealing with form and pessimistic tone: doing away with sets in Dogville, and sticking to handheld camera work in Dogme, did provide interesting ground for thought about Cinema and pushed the conversation about what a movie actually is and means.
The Von Trier bargain doesn't work so well when dealing with content. The man is not an intellectual, just a tortured soul.
When Von Trier tries the bargain with words and ideas instead of images the outcome is pedestrian. Digressions around the first few terms of the Fibonacci sequence, for example, might be very amusing to him, but are shallow and incoherent to a public that actually know what the series are. That sort of disjoint shouts at "cleverness" has the same DNA as the rants of a disturbed person in a street corner; or his own rants at Cannes.
Other examples of the bargain gone wrong abound in the movie: the botched transition of genres and roles, where Gainsbourgh becomes a mafia figure thanks to her "special powers" is risible. A mere excuse to have the pederast scene, which again feels more like an explanation about Cannes and other faux-pas than an insight into perversion. The attempt at list-movie making in the style of Greenaway, and the discourse on violence in the style of Haneke, all fall short here. They fall short both because the underlying insight is weaker and of the shock value is higher. It comes out as needy.
Needy here is a key word. A key masochistic word. there is a palpable self-consciousness in trying to make it shocking, trying to make it more "Von-trier" that ends up in a mess of apologies, starting with the two-part split and the opening credits promising a more hardcore version. One can almost hear Von Trier begging: "I promise it will be shocking enough! give me another 2 hours. I'll make her bleed!"
Not even the great Gainsbourgh, who is truly a soldier of Cinema, or the movie-stealing Uma Thurman can save this mess. For every Uma thurman minute, there are ten empty and weak minutes of pornographic rehash, such as the suicidal baby from Antichrist saved at the last minute by the supremely miscast Shia LaBeouf.
Despite all the attempts at framing it in terms of provocation vs. bourgeois values, this movie has more in common with bang bros. and sophomores trying to be clever, than with the masterpieces of erotic provocation like "Personna," "The Piano Teacher," or "The Pillow Book."
To put it shortly, Nymp()maniac is not the sum of Von Trier's life-long preoccupation and themes, it is a cacophony and a rehash of previous work repackaged in weak structure and shallow references.
This movie is not really about a nymphomaniac out of orgasms as much as it is about a masochistic man out of ideas.… Expand