Donnerstag, 20. Februar 2014

Nymphomaniac: Volume II

"Nymphomaniac: Volume II" is immeasurably superior to its predecessor as it's finally not about juvenile, relatively harmless debaucheries but the earth-shattering, all-destructive force of sexuality. Scenes of grotesque, vile, upsetting sexual practices replace those of theorizing and over-articulation to truly take you inside the mind of someone who's losing control. That sense of dangerous perversion, pathological need that's sorely missing in the first part soars in this one. Also in terms of narrative and style Volume II proves to be substantially richer. Literally within minutes after it opens, we're treated to strangely stunning images the likes of which not seen in Volume I as well as the revelation of a major character detail that immediately raises the stakes and changes the dynamics between the narrator and her listener/inquisitor. Another fundamental reason why the follow-up is so much more watchable is that Charlotte Gainsbourg is infinitely stronger than the fine but ultimately bland Stacy Martin, who plays her younger self. Not until you see Gainsbourg in action do you realize what a crime it has been to confine her to the role of all but a voice in the first half. A naturally physical performer, she allows unfiltered sentiments of pleasure, pain, shame, desperation to parade across her face and body, which twitch, squirm, relax and tighten with such calculated intensity that every blow counts. Add to that the extreme mix of confidence and self-hatred disguised under an analytical poise and she really puts the manic in nymphomaniac. You can't take your eyes off her.

In the third act the plot goes off course and loses its focus on sex a little, so when it comes full circle in the darkened alley, the pay-off isn't quite as fulfilling as one would hope. Still, the actual ending of the movie is one of THOSE that you just won't forget. All in all, this intricately woven film is emotionally and ideologically hardcore, bloodily kinky, unapologetically provocative and offensive. It might not rank among his very best works, but it's a hell of a Lars von Trier movie.

p.s. "Nymphomaniac: Volume I" improves somewhat upon second viewing. The complexity of the script reveals itself more readily, the debate structure becomes more organic once you know what to expect. The Uma Thurman scene remains the highlight and the chapter "Delirium" a drag. For a film thus entitled it also still feels neither sexy nor crazy and as such inherently underwhelming.

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