Montag, 10. Februar 2014

Berlinale: Nymphomaniac: Volume I (director's cut)

The 145-min director's cut of "Nymphomaniac: Volume I" from everybody's favorite Danish madman Lars von Trier is, considering its subject matter, a surprisingly understated affair. Gone are the lavishly stylized visuals and in-your-face ideological taunts or emotional blows of "Antichrist", "Melancholia" & co. Instead, it's mostly a lucid conversation between two strangers accompanied by neutrally reenacted scenarios from the female narrator's past- all done in a conspicuously unassuming manner with scarcely any aesthetic fanfare. Even more disappointing for people expecting fireworks is the fact that story-wise, the film also misses a lot of that dangerous edge/ single-minded conviction that's been a signature of von Trier's writing. To be sure, there's just as much material in this script as in anything he's ever composed, stacking up references- be it scientific, literary or musical, philosophical discourses, religious allegories in the dense dialogue, and they do contain thought-provoking notes or at least sly observations of an acute thinker. But one can't help having the impression that here he's overcompensating a little, stuffing too much research into a project that's an easy target from the day it was announced. Because seen as a whole, all those discussions about trees, fishing, delirium seem only to function as padding and lessen the impact of the central theme; something organic, conducive that would string it all together and drive home the point is not there. Also curious is how in a movie about a self-claimed nymphomaniac, the sex comes off so benign. Which is not to say there aren't plenty of explicit sex scenes- there certainly are, genitals, orifices and body fluids are all amply featured. But the way those scenes are shot and used in the film is mechanical and clinical more than anything, not really convincing in their destructive power. Of all people, von Trier knows the potential of violence and aggression in sex, so it's underwhelming to see him approach the subject with all his big guns left unfired.

This is still very much a fine movie. In my favorite scene, where Uma Thurman appears as Mrs. H, the comic absurdity and devastation left behind by sexual abandon plays out beautifully and you can just sense the unmistakable imprint of a master filmmaker. It's just a pity that those hefty punches feel diluted in a sea of peripheral concerns. Otherwise there are no apparent flaws in the cast or technical department, but overall I'd say there's nothing to write home about either.

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