Tag Archives: Charlotte Gainsbourg

The Snowman (2017) Review

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, horror, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Michael Fassbender as Detective Harry Hole
Rebecca Ferguson as Katrine Bratt
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Rakel Fauke
Val Kilmer as Gert Rafto
J. K. Simmons as Arve Støp
Toby Jones as Investigator Svenson
Director: Tomas Alfredson

For Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), the death of a young woman during the first snowfall of winter feels like anything but a routine homicide. His investigation leads him to “The Snowman Killer,” an elusive sociopath who continuously taunts Hole with cat-and-mouse games. As the vicious murders continue, Harry teams up with a brilliant recruit (Rebecca Fergusson) to try and lure the madman out of the shadows before he can strike again.

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I remember The Snowman being one of my most anticipated films of 2017, however upon its release, I heard it was utterly disastrously bad. I had been meaning to getting around to it sometime, and I remember watching it sometime the past year or so, and while I don’t hate it as much as other people, it wasn’t good. It is a complete mess, and not a very interesting or entertaining mess at that. Only some of the performances and the decent cinematography are holding the movie back from being a failure on every front.

The Snowman is based off a novel of the same name, I never read the book, but I’ve heard it is great and is probably not done justice in the movie. The Snowman has a bizarre feeling throughout, and not really the one intended. Much of the way things are played seriously come across as being unintentionally hilarious. For one, the lead character played by Michael Fassbender is named Harry Hole, which immediately opens up so many obvious jokes. Harry Hole was the name of the lead character in the book, however it was pronounced something like Harry Holy, so they could’ve either pronounced it that way or just changed it, but they didn’t. However, the name thing is just a minor issue in a movie full of major issues. The script itself wasn’t that good, its full of familiar serial killer and thriller tropes and doesn’t really do anything unique, but the story itself isn’t particularly interesting either. The first act had me on board, it wasn’t good but it was starting out, so I was willing to give it a chance. However, at the end of the first act, I began to realise that the plot hadn’t really started yet. It threw in a bunch of subplots with a bunch of random characters, and it became incredibly hard to follow anything that was going on. There is a subplot with Val Kilmer that the movie would randomly cut to, it’s only later that you learn why he’s somewhat important, but it’s really distracting when he seemingly has nothing to do with the plot and it kept focussing on him. Then there’s also a subplot with J.K. Simmons and I don’t remember why the movie spent so much time with him. The Snowman is also not very engaging, it’s just tedious to watch. The 2 hour runtime feels closer to 2 hours and 30 minutes. I will say that the experience is improved by doing literally anything while watching it, so if you have a computer or phone in front of you while watching, it’s an alright way of watching it. The third act is incredibly rushed, and if the movie hadn’t already gone to its lowest point, it certainly did by then. When the killer was revealed, it wasn’t necessarily something I predicted, but it was also something I didn’t really care for. By the time the reveal happened I had lost any shred of interest in the plot, but I’m not entirely certain that the character got any setup or hints suggesting that they would be the killer. It’s also worth noting that the director admitted that there was a short filming schedule and that 10 to 15% of the script remained unfilmed, leading to narrative problems when editing commenced. While I’m sure that the film would’ve retained much of its problems even with the extra footage, it definitely would’ve made the movie at least more comprehensible than how it turned out. At the end they even try to tease a possible sequel with Fassbender’s Hairy Hole (since there’s a book series featuring him, The Snowman is not just a one-off) which probably won’t happen.

This movie has such a great cast and doesn’t manage to use any of them to their fullest potential. Most of them aren’t bad and they are trying their best, however they aren’t great either. Michael Fassbender’s Harry Hole is disjointed, and I don’t mean that in a good way. His character is an alcoholic but there’s no real reason given as to why he is one. Everyone also keeps mentioning how he’s some kind of legendary detective, but we get nothing to see to really back it up. There’s no real defined character for him and he is all over the place, in that it feels like the writers didn’t know what to do with him. Fassbender played him as best as possible given what he had to work with, but needless to say this is far from his best work. Rebecca Ferguson is also the other lead in the movie and also does what she can, however she also doesn’t have much to work with and can only do so much. Charlotte Gainsbourg is pretty good as Hairy Hole’s ex-husband, but again there’s really only so much she could do in her role. The rest of the cast of characters seem out of place and pointless. J.K. Simmons is here playing some shady business tycoon, who I guess is one of the suspects or something (it’s hard to remember), but he doesn’t really add to anything. Not to mention he’s doing this random Scandinavian accent that really does nothing to help his performance at all. Toby Jones is also here for some reason, even though his character could be played by literally anyone. No one in the rest of the cast is really worth mentioning with the exception of one notable actor, and that is Val Kilmer in a supporting role as some detective that the film would cut to occasionally. Kilmer is not looking quite like himself, and it’s not from intentional makeup, he was actually suffering from a form of mouth cancer. That probably explains why his mouth is not moving that well and why there is terrible and out of sync dubbing, with someone’s voice that is clearly not his. Maybe he was put into the movie as like a favour but for his own sake it might’ve been better if they got someone else to play the role.

I like the director Tomas Alfredson, who also made Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Let the Right One In (the latter of which I haven’t seen yet). He’s clearly a more than capable director, yet for some reason parts of the direction just wasn’t working here. The cinematography by Dion Beebe is one of the best parts of the movie, it actually looks quite stunning, especially in the scenes taking place amongst a lot of snow. It does elevate the movie just a bit, so it’s not an ugly looking movie. The music choices were terrible, most of the score is fine if generic and uninspired. As for the non-score bits, there are some other songs that randomly make an appearance and don’t fit in at all with the movie. The editing in many of the scenes is terrible, the editing between the scenes is jarring and doesn’t fit together but even some scenes have been cut up very roughly. Many of the ‘tense’ scenes are just disjointed that they’re hard to get into.

The Snowman is such wasted potential, and I’m not sure how this movie ended up the misfire it was. At best it’s an average but good looking and passable thriller, at worst it’s a disastrous, laughable mess of a film, that shouldn’t have been approved for release. I guess it might be okay to watch if it’s on in the background as that’s what I did, and I didn’t hate it that way (I can only imagine what it was like seeing it in the cinema). However, if you are like a fan of the book or are genuinely looking forward to the movie, you’ll be disappointed with this movie. I don’t put this up to American adaptations ruining the book or whatever, after all David Fincher did well adapting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, another Swedish thriller. Hopefully, The Snowman will get the proper live action treatment that it deserves.

Antichrist (2009) Review

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Explicit sex, graphic violence and genital mutilation.
Cast:
Willem Dafoe as He
Charlotte Gainsbourg as She
Director: Lars von Trier

While a married couple (Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg) is having sex, their infant son in a nearby room falls out a window to his death. She becomes distraught and is hospitalized, but her husband, who is a psychiatrist, attempts to treat her. Deciding that she needs to face her fears, he takes her to a cabin in the woods where she spent a previous summer with the boy. Once they are there, she becomes more unhinged and starts perpetrating sexual violence on her husband and herself.

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Lars von Trier has made many controversial movies in his reasonably large filmography, however it’s his 2009 film Antichrist that is still his most controversial of all. Having watched a couple of von Trier’s previous movies, I checked this out knowing not a lot (outside of some of the infamous moments) and while I guess I can say that I like it, I’m not quite sure what to feel about a lot of it. Generally the response to Antichrist was that the performances and direction were fantastic but very mixed feelings about the actual substance, I’d say that’s the case with me except I lean towards liking the story more than hating it.

Antichrist under an hour and 50 minutes long and honestly I can’t imagine it being longer than that. It’s in the horror genre but it’s not a full on horror movie, definitely don’t go into the movie expecting a horror movie despite the plot being about a couple staying in a cabin in the woods. The movie doesn’t rush into the horrific parts of the movie, it’s a rather slow paced movie that really shows the psychological decline of the two main characters. The third act is where it goes heavy into the extreme violence and what you’re expecting from the movie. Unlike Lars von Trier’s following movies which are more literal with what happens on screen, it’s pretty clear that much of what happens are symbolic or have deeper meanings. I myself wasn’t exactly sure about all the meanings and by the end of the movie I wasn’t really sure what the point of everything was. I can definitely tell that Lars was trying to tell something, it’s not just “hey let’s put two people together and torture them”. However I wasn’t able to understand much of what the movie was trying to say, and I especially don’t get what the ending is supposed to indicate. I won’t go in depth too much with the thematic elements because it’s better experienced for yourself (if you so choose to watch the movie) and also because I myself didn’t pick up on much. However I will address the fact that this movie got so many accusations of misogyny when it came out. Von Trier himself has been accused of misogyny for a while and it started with this movie. From watching the movie and hearing some peoples’ takes on it, I’m more inclined to believe that it’s taking on misogyny more than being misogynistic. Not that I can’t see how they would think the opposite but personally I think misogyny is a prevalent and deliberate theme in Antichrist. Side note, but despite its title, this movie doesn’t involve the Antichrist (at least I don’t think it is). On top of that, from what I can tell the movie really is about depression and nature. As you can expect, pretty much all of the movie is dark and depressing, the happiest scene of the movie is the intro, and that’s the one where a child dies. It is really worth noting that LVT was going through depression while both writing and directing Antichrist, so no doubt that played a big part in the writing of the movie.

Really the only actors in the movie are Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg and they are fantastic. They play unnamed the unnamed couple (credited as He and She) who are trying to deal with the trauma of the death of their child, with Gainsbourg particularly suffering from depression. Dafoe is great as always but it’s Gainsbourg who is particularly impressive, with her having to do some very challenging things in the movie. There isn’t a ton of things when it comes to their characters, as they are more representative of ideas than actually being people.

This film is directed so beautifully by Lars von Trier, I loved the look, the use of colour, all of that. The opening sequence is simultaneously beautiful and tragic, shot in black and white and slow motion. Even before the movie goes to the darkest place of the story, it has such an unnerving feeling throughout, the way things are shot are just bleak. At the same time it’s a stunning looking movie, with beautiful visuals. Now this movie got hit with a lot of controversy, a big part of that being for the extreme content. There are some real sex scenes with real penetration (between Dafoe and Gainsbourg’s porn doubles, they didn’t do these moments themselves), and then there’s the violence. There isn’t a lot of it throughout the entire runtime but the majority of it is in the third act and it can be particularly grisly and unsettling. Now most of the graphic things that happen in the movie I heard before watching the movie, and because of this I think that’s why it didn’t bother me too much, though there were a couple scenes which were really hard to watch. I’ve also seen a lot of violent content in movies before so it wasn’t anything that challenging for me. On top of that, so much of the movie is metaphorical and symbolic that I sort of saw the characters more as representations of things than actual people, making it easier to watch. With that said it is still very graphic and if you are squeamish in the slightest, you aren’t going to be able to sit through to the end.

Saying that Antichrist is not for everyone would be an incredible understatement. It’s immaculately directed and the performances are incredible, but I’m not sure what to think about the rest of the movie yet. It wasn’t even so much the extreme content and more so what the movie is really about, I’m not against it, I just don’t completely understand what it’s trying to say (and I can tell that it’s definitely trying to say something). It may end up being a movie that I’ll need to revisit at some point in the future (even though I really don’t want to). Really all I can say is that if you have a very high threshold for movie violence and are open to more arty films, then maybe check it out if you’re interested in it. Outside of that, as good of a movie as it is, I can’t really recommend it.

Melancholia (2011) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Kirsten Dunst as Justine
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Claire
Alexander Skarsgård as Michael
Kiefer Sutherland as John
Cameron Spurr as Leo
Charlotte Rampling as Gaby
John Hurt as Dexter
Jesper Christensen as Little Father
Stellan Skarsgård as Jack
Brady Corbet as Tim
Udo Kier as The Wedding Planner
Director: Lars von Trier

On the night of her wedding, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is struggling to be happy even though it should be the happiest day of her life. It was an extravagant wedding paid for by her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland) who are trying to keep the bride and all the guests in line. Meanwhile, Melancholia, a blue planet, is hurtling towards the Earth. Claire, Justine’s sister, is struggling to maintain composure with fear of the impending disaster.

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I had heard about Melancholia for a while, I heard that it was Lars von Trier’s most accessible film yet, which wasn’t an easy thing to narrow down to considering his filmography. After watching and mostly liking his two part film Nymphomaniac, I decided to check this movie out. Melancholia is a great and impactful film about depression, with great performances and some really good direction. It’s not for everyone and is a bit overlong, but I thought it was really good.

Melancholia is pretty long at around 2 hours and 15 minutes. The film is split into two parts, one titled Justine (Kirsten Dunst) which is focussed on her wedding, and the other is titled Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), which is more focussed on the approaching planet of Melancholia potentially being the end of Earth. I don’t have a lot of problems with the movie but I will say that it might be a little overlong, it’s mostly with the first half. The first half is important in showing glimpses of Justine’s depression and all that, however this wedding section feels a little too drawn out and could’ve been shortened quite a bit. You do need to know going into Melancholia that it’s pretty slow paced, particularly early in the movie. Despite the plot sounding large scale on paper, it really is a character driven movie, and is more intimate than you’d think it would be. You have to really be focussed on everything that’s going on or you’re just going to lose interest in it all, I was and I had a good time with it. Melancholia is also a very artsy movie, with the way some of it is written and the way certain things are shown, and that could turn people off, for me it didn’t really. The first 8 minutes is full of just slow moving images and video, it could annoy some but personally I though it was fantastic and really haunting. Now know that I’m basing it off Nymphomaniac and what apparently is in von Trier’s other movies, but Melancholia doesn’t have this overwhelming feeling of just absolute bleakness that’s in his other movies. Nor does it force a ton of thematic elements all at the audience or anything like that. It’s much more straightforward, with the main theme being really about depression, and the parallels of Justine’s depression with the looming planet. Despite it being Lars’s most accessible movie, it’s not necessarily an easy watch, it’s a rather sad movie (as you can gather from the title, it’s not just in reference to the approaching planet) and as mentioned earlier, it’s a bit of a slow burn. There’s a reason why this movie along with Antichrist and Nymphomaniac have been called the Depression Trilogy. Without spoiling anything, despite knowing the ending, the last scene of the movie was really impactful and effective.

The acting all around is fantastic. Kirsten Dunst gives a career’s best performance in the lead role of Justine as someone with depression. A big part of the film is her character going through depression and she carries it incredibly well. It’s not a very showy performance, she just really embodies the character incredibly. Charlotte Gainsbourg is about as equally great as Dunst’s sister Claire. The relationship between the two sisters are one of the driving forces of the movie, especially how differently the two react to the looming threat of Melancholia. Justine seems to feel nothing, whereas Claire is constantly worried about it. The rest of the supporting cast are all great as well, from Kiefer Sutherland as Justine’s brother-in-low husband, Stellan Skarsgard as her boss, John Hurt as her father, Charlotte Rampling as her mother and Alexander Skarsgard as her husband. Most of them are just in the first half, we do however also get Sutherland in the second half, and his performance in Melancholia might be one of his best. The only thing about the casting that bothers me a little is that both Stellan and Alexander Skarsgard are in this movie, but they don’t play father and son or relatives or anything, so it’s a little distracting.

It seems like no one directs like Lars von Trier, his work on this movie is nothing short of fantastic. The cinematography is stunning and beautiful, and is done incredibly well. Some of the editing is a little weird where there are unnecessarily a lot of cuts done in many scenes, which is something that von Trier does sometimes. I guess it’s something that you have to get used to when it comes to his films. Throughout the film there is this sense of dread, with the whole thing about the planet Melancholia potentially going to destroy Earth, and it’s effectively haunting. While his films are usually more gritty and grounded, this film does involve some larger scale elements, with the whole film surrounding a planet potentially colliding with Earth. Now it’s not a full on sci-fi movie and most of it doesn’t have a bunch of crazy visuals, but nonetheless these big visual moments are also done really well.

Melancholia is probably the easiest of von Trier’s films to digest, by far the most accessible. I know this, because when it comes to recommending the movie, I don’t have to necessarily give a big warning about what his movies are like and all that. It is still not the most fun film to watch and it is a little overlong but it’s an incredibly well made and directed film and the performances are fantastic, especially from Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg. If you’re open to depressing slow-moving art films, I’d say definitely give Melancholia a chance, it’s really great.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2 (2013) Review

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Explicit material & content that may disturb.
Cast:
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe (ages 35–50)
Stacy Martin as young Joe (ages 15–31)
Stellan Skarsgård as Seligman
Shia LaBeouf as Jerôme Morris
Christian Slater as Joe’s father
Jamie Bell as K
Willem Dafoe as L
Mia Goth as P
Michaël Pas as Older Jerôme
Jean-Marc Barr as the Debtor Gentleman
Udo Kier as The Waiter
Director: Lars von Trier

The continuation of Joe’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) sexually dictated life delves into the darker aspects of her adulthood, obsessions and what led to her being in Seligman’s (Stellan Skarsgard) care.

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I’m assuming that if you’re reading this review, you’ve already read my review of Lars von Trier’s divisive Nymphomaniac Volume 1. While I didn’t love the movie, it was very interesting, with some great performances and von Trier had a very unique style and vision (it was the first film of his that I saw). That was only the first half of the story however, and I heard very different reactions to the second volume. Some said that it was better than the first volume, others says that it was a significant drop in quality. I actually quite liked Nymphomaniac Volume 2, though it is (understandably) less enjoyable than the first volume, and the rather obnoxiously forcibly bleak ending really took away from both movies.

Long story short, if you didn’t like Volume 1 at all (as in was disturbed by it or found it to be absolutely horrible as a movie), Volume 2 isn’t going to be that big of a difference for you, whether you like or dislike it more. Otherwise, if there was something that you liked or were interested in with Volume 1, you’re pretty much going to need to watch the second volume. I do recommend reading my review of Volume 1 as there are some similar things between the two volumes and I don’t want to repeat myself too much. I’ll do my best to mostly talk about the new parts and differences between the two. Volume 2 is as long as Volume 1 at around 2 hours, despite this, instead of being split up into 5 chapters, it is split up into 3 chapters. It really does feel like the second part of the story, there’s not opening credits or anything like that, it goes straight into the rest of the story. There are clear differences between the two volumes and you can tell why Nymphomaniac is split at this particular point. Volume 2 is much darker, while the first volume had spots of dark comedy, the second volume has just specks of dark comedy. While the main character of Joe had many sexual experiences seemingly without any consequences in the first part of the story, without spoiling anything, let’s just say that things just go extremely bad for her in the second part. For example, at the end of Volume 1, Joe is numb from sex, which is particularly significant to her given that she’s a sex addict (or nymphomaniac as she self proclaims to be). So she has to find extreme methods of reigniting her sexuality. While Volume 1 at many points could be hard to watch, this second volume is much more so. In that it’s a less enjoyable experience, but I can’t exactly fault the movie for that. Once again it doesn’t feel like it’s necessarily done for shock value (though knowing Lars von Trier, that probably did play a part in some of the things that happen), it feels honest for the story that’s being told. There are parts that do feel more riveting than the first volume, but it is quite possible that this is because it has less chapters than the first volume or that it is darker. Despite this, enjoyment wise I preferred Volume 1 much more. The conversations between Joe and Seligman are once again interesting and one of the best parts of the Nymphomaniac movies, though once again they could be a little self indulgent (for lack of a better term to use while avoiding the term ‘pretentious’), though they don’t go to absurd levels like the first volume could be at times. Then there’s the ending which has divided a lot of people. Now I knew the ending a long time before going in and I hated the ending already. I did hear about people’s defence of the ending and I kept that in mind while watching both movies, and it still didn’t work for me after watching it. I won’t spoil what it is, but basically it involves one of the two main characters in present day (played by Gainsbourg and Skarsgard) doing something incredibly out of character. While it may have been meant to be a twist, it feels really forced. There’s nothing even small during the movie leading up to the end that hints towards it happening at all, just because people won’t expect a twist to happen doesn’t make it good. This also affects one of the best parts of the movie(s), the conversations between the two characters, instead of making you see them in a different light, it just makes them feel confused and it doesn’t really work or make sense. As a result it all just feels like a cheap way for Lars von Trier to make one of his typically depressing endings. While apparently he has many of these types of endings, I’m sure that they aren’t this lazily bleak. The ending is more than just underwhelming and disappointing, it’s infuriating and does notably detract from the overall film. I’ll just say that if the film ended with some random character we’ve never seen before appearing out of nowhere and killed both characters, it would feel less frustrating. Then again you might actually like the ending, some actually do.

The acting all around is great once again. Charlotte Gainsbourg was fantastic, this time she’s much more front and centre to what was going on. In Volume 1 she was very present throughout, but only in her scenes when she’s telling her stories. Here’s she’s actually present in the flashbacks and being present throughout most of them. She has to go through a lot, both physically and emotionally. Joe’s story in the first volume wasn’t particularly light but the second volume is especially dark. I’ve not seen much from Gainsbourg in terms of acting but from Nymphomaniac she has really shown herself to be an excellent actress. The scenes with Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgard in the present day are great as well and their conversations are really one of the more interesting parts of the Nymphomaniac story, especially how they played off each other with how different they are with regards to their outlook on life and all that. Stacy Martin is once again great as the younger Joe, despite her pretty much being the lead in Volume 1 though, in Volume 2 she’s not in the movie as much, given that in this point in Joe’s telling of the story she’s like in her mid 30s. Shia LaBeouf and some of the other actors return to their roles, once again they are really good and served their purposes well but really they are supporting players. There are mainly 3 newer actors added into the second part of Nymphomaniac. Willem Dafoe at one point is in the movie playing Joe’s boss, he doesn’t really get a lot of screentime but Dafoe brings a lot to whatever role he’s in and here it’s no exception. Jamie Bell plays a sadist who Joe comes in contact with in order to somewhat rehabilitate her sexuality. This is a role that Bell hasn’t really taken on before or since and he is suitably unnerving and violent, really great performance. Mia Goth is the other addition to the story later on, as Joe’s accomplice. This was really one of her first performances and she was really great in her role whenever she was on screen. It seemed like plenty of people were also impressed with her performance, seeing that she would go on to deliver more great performances in A Cure for Wellness, Suspiria and other movies.

Lars von Trier’s direction once again is impressive, with the cinematography being really stunning and direction-wise, a lot of impressive things being done. Regardless of how you feel about the story and all the things that happen, it’s clear watching this that he knows his way behind the camera. The sexual parts to everything is once again graphic and uncomfortable. This time there aren’t as many sex scenes, the sexual aspect of it is border more on fetishism, but again it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to titillate the audience, the sexual acts aren’t pornographic at all, they are actually more disturbing and even darker this time around. Despite some of my issues with Nymphomaniac, it didn’t feel exploitive. Volume 2 is arguably more uncomfortable in general, but that’s mainly because of the story. A weird thing I noticed that differed from the first volume is the lack of drawings, numbers and words that would sometimes appear on screen. Not that it was the glue holding everything together (the diagram of Joe parking a car certainly wasn’t the peak moment of Volume 1), it’s just something I noticed. Also to the second volume’s credit, it doesn’t make random directing decisions, like how it had one chapter with a smaller frame, and another chapter in completely black and white, it actually feels consistent throughout the movie.

Nymphomaniac Volume 2 mostly succeeds in telling the rest of the story. It is harder to watch, darker and more uncomfortable, however that seemed to work for the story. As I said and detailed earlier though, the ending really didn’t just disappoint, it really worked against and detracted a lot from the movie. So even aside from the fact that Volume 1 is more enjoyable to watch, Volume 2 ends with a horrible taste in the mouth, and not the good kind, thus making it not as good as the first part of the story. All in all, I understand why it was split into two parts, the first volume of the story was rather overwhelming and there was a lot of story to cover from what I’ve seen (haven’t seen the director’s cut). However, I think it still would’ve been possible to cut down some things from both volumes and release Nymphomaniac as one 3 hour long movie (or even 3 hours and a half). Nymphomaniac isn’t a movie I want to rewatch ever again and I don’t know if I can ever recommend it, but I guess the best thing I can say is that if my reviews of it made you the least bit interested in it, go check it out and hopefully you’ll get something out of it.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 (2013) Review

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Explicit material & content that may disturb.
Cast:
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe (ages 35–50)
Stacy Martin as young Joe (ages 15–31)
Stellan Skarsgård as Seligman
Shia LaBeouf as Jerôme Morris
Christian Slater as Joe’s father
Uma Thurman as Mrs. H
Sophie Kennedy Clark as B
Connie Nielsen as Katherine (Joe’s mother)
Udo Kier as The Waiter
Director: Lars von Trier

A man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) finds a fainted wounded woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) in an alley and he brings her home. She tells him that her name is Joe and that she is nymphomaniac. Joe tells her life and sexual experiences with hundreds of men since she was a young teenager while Seligman tells about his hobbies, such as fly fishing, reading about Fibonacci numbers or listening to organ music.

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I’ve heard a lot about Lars von Trier, he’s one of the most controversial directors working today. Yet I hadn’t gotten around to watching any of his movies until now. I didn’t really know where the best place to start with him would be (given that his movies are disturbing, depressing, or both), so I just watched the movie I could easily access, Nymphomaniac. I had heard all about Nymphomaniac for a while, with some very polarised reactions to it, some loved it, others not so much.
Having watched the first half of it, while I’m not one of the people who loved it, I actually did like it quite a bit and there’s a lot of great things to it.

I want to preface this review by saying that I saw the movie on Netflix and at the beginning it said that the film I was going to watch is an abridged and ‘censored’ version. So it’s possible that the version I saw won’t be the version that you might see. Nymphomaniac Volume 1 is a slow moving arthouse movie that happens to be about sex. This movie is really conversations between Charlotte Gainsbourg telling her story to Stellan Skarsgard and we see flashbacks of that happening. It’s mainly broken up into 5 chapters (at least for the first half of the story). These conversations are really interesting, especially as Gainsbourg and Skarsgard are very different people and have different perspectives on what happened, definitely one of the highlights of the film. It was interesting to listen to their conversations. Quite often there are a lot of comparisons from objects to things that happened in Joe’s life, an example being a comparison between fly fishing and sex. I get that a lot of people found some bits of the discussions and the comparisons pretentious (and it is), and to be fair they go a little too ridiculous with it sometimes. With that said, I think a lot of these bits are intentionally ridiculous and add quite a bit of humour. Actually there are surprisingly quite a lot of effective comedic moments in the movie, which does lighten up things a bit. It really needed them, because it is a really uncomfortable and bleak movie, even when watching it by yourself (I would know). It does feel a tad repetitive in some of the things that happen but it’s not like the same things happening every time, with every chapter we learn something new about Joe. I will say that I didn’t really feel any emotion throughout this movie. It is a rather cold movie, and on the whole the most emotion I felt was uncomfortableness at certain moments. Now I was still interested in the movie despite this, but it’s not really a movie where you get emotionally invested or anything like that. Now this is a review of essentially half the story, and as of this point I haven’t watched Volume 2, so I can’t tell yet how the whole complete story works just yet.

There are a lot of actors in this movie and they do a great job in their roles. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays the lead character of Joe, we really just see her as she’s talking to Stellan Skarsgard’s character of Seligman and have a lot of conversations, both Gainsbourg and Skarsgard are great. In the flashbacks, the younger version of Joe is played by Stacy Martin, who does a fantastic job, in this volume, Martin really gets the lead in the movie. She has to do a lot of things, it’s a very challenging role and she absolutely nails it. Shia LaBeouf is also quite good in his (small) role here, though his English accent is a little hit or miss. We also have Christian Slater and Connie Nielsen as Joe’s parents, good in their limited screentime. We also get a bit of Uma Thurman in one chapter, also great. Really everyone did a good job in their roles.

I’ve only seen one movie from Lars von Trier now, but I can tell from his work on Nymphomaniac Volume 1 that he’s great at his craft. As this is a movie called Nymphomaniac, surrounding a sex addict, you can tell that there is a lot of sex shown on screen. However it actually isn’t exploitive or pornographic. It is basically as graphic as porn as you see pretty much everything, though apparently no actual sex was performed and there was a lot of body doubles, prosthetics and CGI face swapping involved. However it’s not particularly sexy, it doesn’t glamourize it at all, just portraying the sexual acts on screen with honesty to the story. It treated it much like how the movie Shame treated it (another movie about a sex addict), the sex actually has a point. As I said earlier, the version of Nymphomaniac I saw was apparently a ‘censored’ version, so I’m guessing there’s another version that’s much more graphic than this. There was some interesting editing choices made, with some scenes cutting to things like animals, and this mostly worked for me. This film would also have some visuals shown on screen, with words, numbers and shapes actually being drawn on screen during scenes (which surprised me). As much as I mostly loved Lars von Trier’s direction, there were some odd choices made that were out of place. For example, in chapter 3, the framing of the screen was much smaller compared to the rest of the movie, and I don’t really know why. Then in another chapter, it switched to black and white. Also the aforementioned visuals being shown on screen can be a little too much and trying too hard. I liked some of these moments, but we didn’t need a diagram to be drawn out showing Joe parking a car or things like that. They didn’t take the movie down a lot but it was a bit distracting.

Nymphomaniac Volume 1 is definitely not for everyone. It is a difficult to watch, slow moving arthouse movie about a sex addict. If you’re not immediately turned off by this concept and are interested in it based on my thoughts on the film, maybe you should check it out. However, it worked for me, The direction was mostly fantastic, the cast was great, and it was an effective story. With all that being said, this is only the first half of the movie, as of this moment writing this review I’ve just watched Volume 1 (and by the time I uploaded this review I would’ve watched Volume 2), so my view on part 1 could change depending on how the second part goes. It’s made me interested to watch the second half of the story, as well as von Trier’s other movies. Again though, I’ll probably need to watch Volume 2 before coming to a proper conclusion to the overall story.