The first human eyeballs have gazed upon Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, and since those eyeballs mostly belong to critics, we now have the first reviews of the movie everyone is dying to watch with their parents. The version screened was “an abridged and censored version” clocking in at about 4 hours, which I guess is significantly shorter than the five-and-a-half hour version Von Trier supposedly edited. (The movie was shown in two volumes, with full credits running at the end of each). A lot is being said about the film that follows a sex addict (played by several actresses including Charlotte Gainsbourg) as she recounts her graphic exploits to a stranger. Some are calling it Von Trier’s magnum opus, others are referring to Shia Labeouf’s “toe-curling acting“. Everyone is saying that it features some of the most explicit scenes ever filmed involving mainstream actors. And since I’ve lost the ability to sit through anything over 30 minutes long, these reviews are probably the closest I’m going to get to Nymphomaniac. Join me in reading the best parts.
“Novelistic in its chapter-designated structure, anecdotal richness and sensitivity to life’s different stages, Nymphomaniac nonetheless shortchanges its central figure by so narrowly defining her. Despite spending four hours with her, except when she’s with her father we seldom view her in anything but a sexual context; she never evinces any other interests and her reflective comments are invariably narcissistic, if negatively so.”-THR
“Still, if von Trier means to challenge the depiction of sex onscreen, the truth of the matter is that people can find far more explicit imagery with a simple Google search. And when it comes to the potency of ideas, his script doesn’t uncover anything that wasn’t previously addressed by Anais Nin, Henry Miller or the Marquis de Sade. In fact, given the film’s overall tendency to describe rather than depict specific memories — the exception being the “Silent Duck” chapter, in which Jamie Bell disciplines and degrades Jo oncamera — “Nymphomaniac” might actually have been more effective as a novel. –Variety
The drama is dark and heavy, marbled with contrivances and coincidences that the players remark upon and encrusted with a mixed-bag of supporting performances, from Shia LaBeouf (ill at ease) and Uma Thurman (electrifying) to Jamie Bell, curiously riveting as a neat little sadist who never once meets your eye. – The Guardian
“Is there any sign here of a chastened Von Trier after the ‘I’m a Nazi’ scandal that engulfed him at Cannes in 2011? You only have to hear Skarsgård’s character musing on how non-active paedophiles ‘deserve a medal’ or see Gainsbourg sandwiched between two African immigrants with hard-ons to know the answer. He might not have been in control of the edit of this version of his film (the uncut version will emerge later), but the frank, unflinching and playful two-part ‘Nymphomaniac’ couldn’t have been made by anyone else.” – Time Out London
In some passages, it’s almost as though von Trier is directly addressing his critics: A few exchanges about Seligman’s Jewishness as well as one involving the need for politically correct terms so words such as “niggers” can be avoided never quite find an organic way into the text; instead, they call to mind his infamous “Nazi” comments at a Cannes press conference. Rather than letting his characters speak, it’s clear that von Trier is simply trying to stir the pot, something that a film containing so much interesting material doesn’t really need. –Indiewire