(Denmark/Germany/France/Belgium - 2013; US release 2014)
Written and directed by Lars von Trier.
Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Connie Nielsen, Jens Albinus, Hugo Speer, Cyron Melville, Felicity Gilbert, Anders Hove, Jesper Christensen, Saskia Reeves, Ananya Berg, Nicolas Bro. (Unrated, 117 mins)
Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Willem Dafoe, Mia Goth, Jean-Marc Barr, Udo Kier, Michael Pas, Caroline Goodall, Kate Ashfield, Ananya Berg, Shanti Roney, Kookie Ryan, Papou. (Unrated, 124 mins)
ANTICHRIST (2009) and especially BREAKING THE WAVES (1996). It's von Trier's third straight film with Charlotte Gainsbourg, who's become his muse in misery after the harrowing ANTICHRIST and MELANCHOLIA (2011), where she initially has a supporting role but becomes the focus as the film progresses. Von Trier has a history of pushing his actresses to their limit and getting incredible work from them: Emily Watson's Oscar-nominated performance in BREAKING THE WAVES remains one of the greatest in all of cinema, while Bjork surpassed all expectations in DANCER IN THE DARK (2000). DOGVILLE's Nicole Kidman and MANDERLAY's Bryce Dallas Howard also survived von Trier and lived to tell the tale. In Gainsbourg, von Trier has found a kindred spirit who's willing and eager to go to the dark places others won't. She's the Klaus Kinski to his Werner Herzog, minus the mutual death threats.
Mrs. H maniacally melt down, introducing the boys to Joe so they can "put a face to the all the therapy they'll need down the road," and saying "Would it be alright if I show the children the whoring bed? They need to see it! Let's go see Daddy's favorite place!" Thurman is onscreen for less than ten minutes but she makes every second count, and it's an instant classic of laughing while cringing in pained discomfort, one of those rare instances where a cameo is actually Oscar-worthy.
"Fido," tying her to a couch, bent over, while he whips her bare ass with a riding crop, then inserting his fingers into her vagina to gauge her arousal. Things just get worse for Joe as her sex addiction, self-loathing and degradation cause her to lose her family. She can barely hold down her office job, routinely fucking male co-workers in the restroom or a closet space. She's ordered into therapy, where she lashes out against a society that judges her and tries to shame her. Now in her mid-40s, she eventually loses any feeling of pleasure, as her vagina is so scarred and worn from the thousands of men over three decades of hook-ups that it spontaneously bleeds, and causes numerous bouts of unbearable, debilitating pain. Joe eventually gets a job as a debt collector/extortionist for the shady L (Willem Dafoe), which leads to her shot at redemption by becoming a mentor to troubled teen P (Mia Goth).
no pun intended--with NYMPHOMANIAC, so much so that sometimes the filmmaking itself is easy to overlook. There are some stunning shots and a strong Andrei Tarkovsky vibe throughout--one shot of older Joe finding "her" tree is breathtaking, and clothed or otherwise, the camera simply adores Martin, who has the most hauntingly seductive gaze you've seen in ages. Even seeing it split into two films--if you see it in its American incarnation, it's best to set four hours aside and just binge it--it probably still needs to be seen again in von Trier's original director's cut. Judging from viewing it in this format, it's not von Trier's best film--it seems to start stumbling with the introduction of L, though that's no fault of Dafoe's-- but it may be his most personal one, and one that reveals more of itself on repeat viewings, however soul-crushing and exhausting that may be. But that's vintage Lars von Trier. Love him or hate him, his films get you talking.