Brunswick Square, London WC1. Box Office +44(0)20 7837 8402. Bus: 168 & 68. Tube: Russell Square Tube. Credit Cards Accepted: Visa & Mastercard. Only seating for evening shows can be booked in advance.
Tickets: Full £6.50. First performance £4.50. Co „
‘The secret ingredient to sex is love’.
Star – Charlotte Gainsborough
Genre – Arthouse
Run Time – 1 Hr 57 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – U.K/USA
Oscars – 0 nominations
Awards – 14 Wins & 28 Nominations
Amazon – £11:0DVD (Blue Ray £9.62)
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There were a lot of ‘cringey’ right-of-passages to go through as a young kid in England and, indeed, a young adult but none more so than trying to procure porn. The arrival of VHS video meant you didn’t have to check all the bushes on the way home for discarded porn mags anymore, which was good, but had to somehow pretend to the video shop clerk you weren’t buying films to get off to, all along knowing that’s exactly what the clerk was thinking when you handed over your membership card. It would be the latest erotic soft porn thriller with Sharron Whirrey or alternatively seeking your naked ladies bits in exotic and pretentious foreign art house movies like this one. The safer option was to go for the art house to avoid embarrassment. I have seen a lot of terrible movies before my 25th birthday. But now you can get free internet porn and so no need for film and DVD to even contest that, long since past the point where you can see ‘everything’ in mainstream cinema and DVD now. Briefly the experience of seeing the ‘moneyshot’ and other graphic sex acts in mainstream cinema and DVD passed by the sensors was appealing but now its just directors trying to be edgy, as is the case with one of my favorite foreign directors in Lars von Trier here, certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.
Nymphomaniac was supposed to be one film but Von Trier ran up four hours of it and not the sort of director that stays long in the edit suite so it became volume 1&2. The film (s) are the final part of Von Trier’s "Trilogy of Depression" and also including the pretty dreadful Antichrist (2009) and the far better Melancholia (2011), all of which star British actress Charlotte Gainsbourg. Critics have said his movie bears more than a resemblance to the film ‘Anita: Swedish Nymphet (1973), about a psychology student who helps Anita, a self-confessed nymphomaniac, by listening to her sexual stories and trying to help her change her self-destructive ways. Its not unusual for directors to do that when they admire previous works so much.
As Von Trier has moved away from his ‘take it or leave it ‘wobbly camera, no soundtrack style dogme movies its more towards western actresses and Hollywood these days, so having to cast a star to sell it an English speaking movie, which its shot in. Canadian plonker Shia LaBeouf got the gig and, like all those going for the role, was asked to ‘send pictures of his penis’ in order to obtain his role. Shia being Shia decided to send in ‘personal sex tapes of him and his girlfriend having sex’ in order to convince Lars von Trier to cast him. He got the part although we will never know if he ‘got the part’. He is certainly a big dick. The film was deemed naughty enough to be banned in Turkey. Yes, Turkey, the country that funds ISIS.
Charlotte Gainsbourg ... Joe
Stellan Skarsgård ... Seligman
Stacy Martin ... Young Joe
Shia LaBeouf ... Jerôme
Christian Slater ... Joe's Father
Uma Thurman ... Mrs. H
Sophie Kennedy Clark ... B
Connie Nielsen ... Joe's Mother
Ed … Jamie Bell
Mia Goth ….P
Sophie Kennedy Clark …. B
Michael Pais …Old Jerome
Ronja Rissmann ... Joe - 2 Years
Maja Arsovic ... Joe - 7 years
Sofie Kasten ... B - 10 Years
Ananya Berg ... Joe - 10 Years
Anders Hove ... Odin
Joe: Perhaps the only difference between me and other people was that I've always demanded more from the sunset; more spectacular colors when the sun hit the horizon. That's perhaps my only sin.
An older man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) finds a badly beaten woman in an alley and he brings her home. She tells him that her name is Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and that she is nymphomaniac. Joe appears a rather cold individual and begins to recite her life and sexual experiences with hundreds of men since she was a young teenager while Seligman tells about his hobbies to calm her, such as fly fishing, reading about Fibonacci numbers or listening to organ music.
Born to a loving father (Christian Slater) and aloof mother (Connie Nielsen) her childhood was left to her imagination, soon obsessed by sexual feeling. By 16 teenager Joe (Stacy Martin) is blossoming fast in the way of men and with her friend B (Sophie Kennedy Clark) having contests to score the most guys (of any age) on trains. The accumulation of men seems to appeal to the girl’s twisted sexual sense of fun and emancipation. They even have club full of likewise girl’s who have one rule - only sleep with the guy once and no falling in love.
Now 18 Jo gets a job in an office where she slowly falls for her boss, Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf), unable to suppress those banned feelings of romantic connection and he unaware of those emotions. She writes down her feelings in a letter to him. But Jerôme has left for Europe to travel before she can deliver it.
Joe: No, no, no. It's worse. Love distort things. Or even worse, love is something you never asked for. The erotic was something that I ask for or even demanded of men. But this idiotic love... I felt humiliated by it. And all the dishonesty that follows
We pick up her life as she accelerates her sexual conquers, having six or seven guys on the go at the same time, coming to ahead when the wife (Uma Thurman) of one of them and her kids pays a visit to her just after he does, teeing up an embarrassing scene.
So enter Ed (Jamie Bell), who introduces a now thirtysomething Joe into sexual humiliation and bondage, which leads to criminality and a man called L (Willem Defoe). She is told by M to go out and seduce a vulnerable young girl, P (Mia Goth), to seduce and recruit into their organization. But it’s not long before she is experimenting in sexual desire and control once again in Volume 2.
Joe: It's actually the souls of the trees we're seeing in the winter. In summer everything is green and idyllic but in the winter, the branches and the trunks all stand out. Just look at how crooked they all are. The branches have to carry all the leaves to the sunlight. That's one long struggle for survival.
As a big fan of LVT and his early work I found him an interesting filmmaking doing what he does well. But whenever arty foreign directors try to do sexual desire and serious plotting it all goes pearshaped. Although some periodically good scripting and interesting scenes there is little eroticism to the film although I suppose that’s the point. It seems to be about how women use sex as power and men are the bait at the end of the hook, the fly fishing metaphor used heavily throughout the film. The men are all cast as weak and two dimensional and the women very much cold, aloof and in-charge. Maybe that’s how he sees women. That’s a man who is scared of women and the type of men that women are not attracted to. Thye want us to be in charge whatever they say.
It’s interesting how it explores sexual desire in very young women, something rather taboo in society. In films it’s ok for young boys to peep at naked older women through the window in a jokey way but God forbid if it’s the other way around with desire. But here it all is and LVT is out to shock. It’s graphic but not nowhere near as graphic as some big screen trailblazers in this Arthouse sex genre and certainly some questionable near the knuckle moments. You have to remember our director is a manic depressive and they see things more cynical in that darkness.
Yes it’s pretentious and out to shock and generally boring but it’s not too naff and some points I actually believe in. It is interesting to explore that whole taboo sexuality of the age gap. Humans are created and programmed to reproduce and it’s only a law someone made up that decides 16 is an appropriate age. Some of these recent historical sexual abuse cases don’t really take into account that it takes two to tango and taboo sex is the most exciting. If 15-year-old girls threw themselves at Radio One DJs back in the day then hey ho. It’s not as terrible as it sounds. This film nails the young girl’s point of view on that and how exciting it is to them. Of course men will exploit that but some girls grow up quicker than others.
Both films are in the same box set as far as retail and rental goes but you can see one at a time on Sky Movies etc. It’s not advisable to watch both at the same time as they are hard work. It’s also not a movie to draw the curtains to and get the box of tissues or hand scream out youngsters. Its not remotely erotic and more about sexual politics than lust. But if you like your foreign movies then I’m sure this may well whirrr away in some of your DVD players and you may see more in it than I did.
Joe: The erotic is about saying yes. Love appeals to lowest instincts, wrapped up in lies. How do you say yes when you mean no? And vice-versa. I'm ashamed of what I became. But it was beyond my control.
Imdb.com – 7.0/10.0 (78,345votes)
Rottentomatos.com –74% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 64% critic’s approval
Variety –‘It's either one of the worst pornos ever made or one of Von Trier's best films.
Mail –‘ The secret ingredient to sex is love’
The Mirror –‘Overall, the sexually graphic pic is more boring than not’
Milwaukee Times –‘Joe uses her sexuality to control men. The question is whether her sexuality controls her’.
In These Times –‘I can no longer tolerate Lars von Trier’
Film Threat –‘.Perhaps the most surprising thing about Lars von Trier is that he still can surprise us’.
The Times –‘Beneath the sheen of sweat on his actors and between the frequent scenes of frantic and entangled limbs, there's substance to Von Trier's tale’