NR, 123 min.
Director/Writer: Lars von Trier
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Jamie Bell, Christian Slater, Willem Dafoe, Mia Goth, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Michael Pas, Jean-Marc Barr, Udo Kier, Ananya Berg
While Lars von Trier found a pretty good natural breaking point in his story to end the first volume of his erotica effort “Nymphomaniac”, he doesn’t have quite so natural a starting point for volume 2. The truth is it’s really intended as one epic movie, not two episodes. And now, Criterion has put out extended cuts of both volumes. Yeesh!
Anyway, “Nymphomaniac, vol. II” took a lot of heat as being one of the worst films of last year. I quite enjoyed the first half, and while I didn’t enjoy the second half as much, that is mostly because it is a second half rather than a second story. You’d think it would be difficult not to repeat yourself in a sexposé about the life of a nymphomaniac that was over four hours in length, but von Trier does a very good job of staying on fresh ground throughout.
His heroine’s tastes get more bizarre and further away from what is accepted as normal behavior. She becomes a mother, but cannot choose her family over her sex addiction. She gets into physical abuse and finds a lesbian lover whom she tried to mentor and act as mother toward. Ultimately, she accepts who she is, but cannot accept a betrayal by a former lover, who may not have even been aware of that betrayal.
I suppose the detail that gets under most critics’ skin—other than the fact that the movie really isn’t very erotic—is the betrayal that happens at the very end of it. I see it as a man acting they way men have toward women for a very long time. This guy plays the sympathy card throughout the woman’s story and then thinks he deserves to get in her pants for his empathy. Does this betray what we know of his character, or does is simply define him as a typical man? Men have been treating women poorly for so long, I think they’ve earned right to have the ending von Trier provides his heroine.