Nymphomaniac - reviews of von Trier's 'provocative' film

Feb 21, 2014

Von Trier's controversial new drama about sex addiction is a 'think piece' that's teeming with laughs

What you need to know

Critics are calling Lars von Trier's controversial new two-part drama Nymphomaniac Vol 1&2, which opens in UK cinemas this weekend, "engrossing", "provocative" and "ferociously entertaining". The Danish writer-director Von Trier is best known for his films Melancholia and Antichrist.

In Nymphomaniac Vol 1&2, a four-hour drama divided into two parts, a scholarly bachelor, Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard), finds a woman, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), beaten in an alleyway. When he brings her home to his flat, Joe recounts the story of her life and sex addiction from her teenage years to her current age of 50.

Young Joe is portrayed by Stacy Martin. With Uma Thurman, Christian Slater and Shia LaBeouf.

What the critics like

Von Trier's ambitious drama, is a "provocative, engrossing, often hilarious, frequently tough picture", says Kim Newman in Empire. It's not for all sensibilities but it's among von Trier's more playful, purely entertaining films, with insight and humour even in the horrors. 

The two-part film is packed with nudity, though less eye-wateringly graphic than rumour supposed, but it's also "bounteously clever, and teeming with laughs", says Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph. This isn't bad going for a wildly intellectual thinkpiece about carnal excess.

Nymphomaniac is a "ferociously entertaining experience in which one finds Von Trier at the peak of his craft", says Scott Foundas in Variety. He links together ideas about female sexuality, fly-fishing and artistic creation with equal amounts of playfulness and intellectual rigor.

What they don't like

Certainly, there are moments of wickedly sharp humour, scenes of great cinematic beauty and the central performances from Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgard are extraordinarily good, says Alison Rowat in the Herald, Scotland. "Yet for all its cleverness, this is dirty old man cinema covered up in the raincoat of the art house."

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