Nymphomaniac (2014)


Always the left hand first. I, however, am left-handed. The assumption that the script makes about the fun-lover going for the easy option every time is ill-considered, as it goes without saying that at the very least, ten percent of the time, you will definitely be wrong.

Unless you have seen Nymphomaniac, the above statement will not make alot of sense to you. But Von Trier’s latest cinematic opus assumes a great deal. And as we have seen by the above example, often incorrectly. This may seem a frivolous, even trivial pedanticism, but it is an unfortunate example of an opinion rarely challenged. If you feel you have no equal, then making mistakes becomes unimportant, because even when not at your best, you are still head and shoulders above everyone else. You can excuse your errors with artistic licence, or even a lack of focus on the tiny, as it has little or no bearing on the master plan for your big picture.

Ever since watching Mr Beans’ Holiday, starring Rowan Atkinson, I have been constantly reminded of the hilarity of the auteur. That film was popcorn entertainment, but within the plot, a film-maker, played somewhat ironically by Willem Dafoe, proudly sits, possibly channelling Von Trier, in a packed auditorium eagerly anticipating the first showing of his new masterpiece. Narrated by the director (who else?), the words are beautifully predictable and hedonistically obscure, like an advert for the latest swanky perfume. Unfortunately for him, of course, Mr Bean has had a hand in the film also, to brilliant comedic results, undermining this apparent genius, by actually making a film that people enjoyed, rather than were expected to be impressed by.

And with every Von Trier project, you cannot help but get that same feeling. That you are expected to be in awe and wonder, regardless of whether it means anything to you or not. If nothing else, the lesson most learned from Jo’s experiences here would be one of knowing oneself and loving it regardless. A fact that will only be borne from honesty.Perhaps Von Trier’s most ardent followers should take a leaf from a philosophy they claim to know and love so much.

Von Trier’s back catalogue is, to some, quite shocking on occasion. His imagination is populated by his own honesty, his own passions and carnality which is evident from his writing here and in other dark places, like Antichrist, for example. Like any true narcissist, his contempt for the rest of humanity is obvious and he seems to dwell lasciviously on the frailty and endless imeptitude of a species he must unfortunately identify with forever. He tells stories of human weakness and need, choosing to focus on the triviality of something so pointless and pitiable as addiction.

In Nymphomaniac, we are forced to labour through a womans’ sexual past, pigeon-holed into bite-sized chunks with unimaginatively titled chapters, for four hours. Regailed by a mouth full of plums, this emotional bleating of a wanton and spoiled woman with a confused need for she does not know what is painful to watch for more than one reason. Visually, the film is uncomfortable viewing. It approaches subjects that would make a Daily Mail reader apoplectic enough to probably write a very stern letter to anyone they thought would listen. It attempts to deal, somewhat heavy-handedly, with a delicate, sensitive subject and  basically screams CUNT! (their word, not mine) at it over and over again. It’s not pretty, it’s not erotic and it’s not very nice.

Liberally spinkled with some of the least appealing vaginas that I think I have ever seen on screen or anywhere else for that matter and cocks of more colour, size and religious bent than Bernard Matthews could possibly have ever dreamed of, Nymphomaniac wants you to understand that this is far from titilation. You may have come for the saucy jiggery-pokery madam, but it’s not so funny with a fist up your bum, now is it?

The script intermittently (and quite by accident, I’d wager) trips into actual inspiration. It rambles mostly, however, and at some length, so it was an inevitable truth that Von Trier might make sense eventually at some point throughout this seemingly endless psychiatry session.

Kudos for those taking part and getting down and dirty when it called for it. You have to admire the nerve of some of the actors here as they bare all for Von Trier’s definition of entertainment. Like being flogged, however, after the first couple of occasions, what follows doesn’t really register.To start with, you might be forgiven for recoiling aghast at the spectacle in front of you, but by the end, you’re probably just about ready dry hump the nearest pensioner.

An interesting, though underwhelming project that suffers from the hype of it’s long foretold existence. It really is nothing more than a woman telling a story to a stranger she meets, who inexplicably takes her in when she is in most need. Do we care more (or less) for her by the end of the exhaustive running time? (it was going to be longer, too) Not really. Do we feel slightly cheated that we didn’t actually get to see Uma Thurman’s face in paroxysms of unbridled sexual ecstasy? Well, yes, a bit.

In all, just what Von Trier fans will expect and no doubt extol. For the rest of us that aren’t too fussed either way whether he makes films or not or has a soft spot for Hitler, well, we should expect it too. We just won’t feel the need to shout about it afterwards.

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