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Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1- Porn or Pleasure?

 

Since this is my first movie review for this site, I should probably start out with something on the tamer side, kind of ease my way into things. So I picked Lars Von Trier’s newest movie, “Nymphonmaniac: Vol. 1,” to kick things off.

If you have not already heard of this movie, then you probably don’t know the controversy surrounding it, although the title alone is provocative enough. The buzz that I heard before viewing the film was that our ol’ pal Lars decided to use un-simulated sex acts in his film, which, while being extremely taboo, is not without precedent (see “9 Songs”). That being said, I was not convinced. I mean, this is a movie that has mainstream actors in it, not all of them mind you, but definitely some A-listers. So I decided to watch the movie and find out for myself. Lets clear the air right now, yes, there are actual sex acts being performed in this movie (hypothetically, it is possible that a prosthetic could be used, but sources, and my own eyes, say they’re real). So this begs the question, “Where does art end and porn begin?” I think this can be addressed in 3 questions:

1) Were the scenes artfully done?

2)Did the scenes convey the directors intention?

3) Would the movie have suffered without doing it this way?

To answer the first question, yes I think the scenes were artfully done. Despite many things people say about Trier, he usually is not denied the fact that he has a very unique view with the camera and his direction. These may be real sex acts that you are watching, but the movie is called “Nymphomaniac”, what the hell would you expect? Did the scenes convey the director’s intention? This one is split for me, in the first scene I would say yes, the second, no. The first scene involves a game two girls are playing on a train and a gentleman that does not want to participate. I think the realism of the scene accurately depicts both the intentions of the girl and the emotions of the man. The second one appears in kind of a montage and I don’t really see what his intention was with the addition of the more explicit clip, which brings us to the third question: would the movie have suffered without doing it this way? Here things get a little more definitive. No, I do not feel the movie would have suffered. I believe that in both scenes, the audience would get the same emotional impact without the addition of the actual sex acts being shown. Now this could possibly change in the second volume, but it’s too early to make a judgement on that. So does it amount to porn? I’m not too damn sure, but the hell with it, it’s going to come down to personal preference anyway.

Now that we have that issue under wraps, we can discuss the rest of the movie (about time, right?). The film follows a woman who is telling her life story to a man who rescued her after being attacked. In this first volume we learn about her childhood and young adult years, how she became a nymphomaniac and the affairs that ensued. Like many of his films, Trier adds some unusual effects and narrative devices into his storytelling, some of which are quite amusing (3+5), while others are kind of like decorations your mom puts around the house: a little cluttered and you’re not entirely convinced they are needed (yes, it was unique to compare her sexual prowess to flyfishing, but WHY damnit??) The best part about Vol. 1 was the underlying tone of dark humor in many of the scenes. This is not a comedy mind you, it is very much about a troubled girl with very low self-esteem, however in some of the scenes its almost as if the craziness of what is going on slips over to madness, making you a little delirious in the process. I’m not saying that you’ll be laughing out loud or anything, more of a “What the fuck?” that you would give if you came home to find your boss wearing your wife’s underwear. A funny scene in some respects…just maybe not to you. Tell me the little guy in your head doesn’t snicker a little bit when Uma Thurman asks to show the kids the “whoring bed.”

Overall, I think that, like most of Lars Von Trier’s movies, “Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1” is worth watching; whether you enjoy it or not is another matter.  And for that, I award it 6.5 out of 10 Ninja Stars.  Perhaps more light will be shed upon viewing “Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2.” More on that soon!

 

UPDATE: So apparently a prosthetic was put in place for the train scene (because apparently even Lars has his limits), however, many of the scenes that don’t necessarily show physical proof are actually real, according to interviews with Trier.