Ben Oliver

Banner image for Nymphomaniac


For me, love was just lust with jealousy added.
28 August 2016

This is about Volume I & II combined, since I watched them one after the other.

A man finds a woman passed out in the street, and takes her in. As she rests in his spare bed, she recounts tales from her life as a self-proclaimed nymphomaniac.

I’ll brace myself for emails calling me a philistine, but my tolerance for pretentious bullshit has been tested here. Perhaps I’m taking it all the wrong way and this is a 5 1/2 hour masterpiece about human sexuality, but I just can’t get on board. It’s a really long artsy softcore porn-fest with some naff philosophising spliced in.

The episodic structure initially provides a good way to get us hooked. Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) tells a story, then she sits with Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) and he relates it back to something he has seen in his life or read in literature. About three hours in you realise it’s not going anywhere but at that point you might as well stick it out.

There’s a lot of ‘shock’ material in Nymphomaniac but it’s so oddly clinical that it fails to provoke any sort of reaction, no matter how disturbing the content. The one thing I truly couldn’t watch was Shia LaBoeuf attempting a Dick Van Dyke level British accent.

Some interesting performances (notably Stacy Martin as young Joe) don’t save this from being a tedious gimmicky mess strictly for von Trier completionists.

Reply by email