Nymph()maniac: Volume II

Director: Lars von Trier (2013)
StarringCharlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Jamie Bell
Find it: IMDB

'Always go darker' is the general rule most films abide by when making a sequel or second volume of a story. This is true enough of Nymph()maniac: Volume II, which begins to explore the less pleasant elements of Joe's sex addiction (yes, even less pleasant than being bummed by a disinterested Shia LaBeouf). No longer able to achieve orgasm, the now-married Joe (Gainsbourg) is given permission by husband Jerome (LaBeouf) to try elsewhere. This she does, to the detriment of her marriage, health and general well-being.

Volume II introduces us to Jamie Bell's 'K', a sadistic BDSM maestro who shows fan-fiction wanker Christian Grey up for the vanilla pie he really is. As with LaBeouf and Slater, this is the best I've ever seen Bell, the act laying to rest his Billy Elliot ballet shoes once and for all. A relatively small part, it nevertheless ushers in Nymph()maniac's even darker sensibilities, spelling bad times ahead for poor nympho Joe.

Like Kill Bill: Volume II before it, the fun and the action (albeit a different kind of action) is toned down to make way for more dialogue, more metaphor and deeper pondering. Is von Trier 'slut shaming' his heroine here by having her so battered and defeated during this second volume? Or is it instead (as is suggested through the dialogue) a noble attempt at feminism, leaving its protagonist to be ultimately admired? Granted, feminism is not a word you'd usually apply to a film which depicts a man punching a lady square in the face, but von Trier is a filmmaker whose work tends to defy classification. Fluffy pink handcuffs this is not.

Nymph()maniac is the sort of film you either love or hate. It's long, pretentious and dubious in its sexual politics. It's also gratuitous, depressing and potentially very offensive to a lot of people. Forget about love; I adored it.

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