Well, it appears that the wait is finally over. After suffering through a barrage of promotional material for Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac over the last couple of months, the film has now screened for critics and the first reviews are starting to emerge. Of course, those of us who live in North America won’t get a chance to check out the director’s sex epic until the Spring but overseas in Denmark, the film is about to release into theatres and several reviewers have revealed their thoughts on the incredibly controversial film.
The Film Stage has been kind enough to compile excerpts from all of the reviews, which you can check out below. It seems that for the most part, reactions are fairly positive. In fact, some are calling it the director’s best work yet. Of course, Nymphomaniac won’t be for everyone. It won’t even be for most people. But for those that can stomach the sexually explicit material, it looks like you’re in for an interesting viewing experience.
Check out what critics are saying about Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac below and let us know in the comments if you’ll be catching this one in theatres.
Peter Debruge at Variety:
With his sexually explicit, four-hour magnum opus, “Nymphomaniac,” world cinema’s enfant terrible Lars von Trier re-emerges as its dirty-old-man terrible, delivering a dense, career-encompassing work designed to shock, provoke and ultimately enlighten a public he considers altogether too prudish. Racy subject aside, the film provides a good-humored yet serious-minded look at sexual self-liberation, thick with references to art, music, religion and literature, even as it pushes the envelope with footage of acts previously relegated to the sphere of pornography. Even so, in this cut of “Nymphomaniac,” the only arousal von Trier intends is of the intellectual variety, making this philosophically rigorous picture — which opens abroad on Dec. 25 and domestically in two parts, on March 21 and April 18 — a better fit for cinephiles than the raincoat crowd.
Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter:
A dour modern Scheherazade keeps her interlocutor up all night telling him about a few of what might well be a thousand and one men in Nymphomaniac. Lars von Trier’s two-part, four-hour sexual epic has been the subject of endless speculation since the perennial controversy hound began signing up name actors for what he advised would be a hardcore account of a very active woman’s sexual life. It is that, although less so than many might have imagined or hoped for. Still, it is never boring and does provoke and stimulate, although not as a turn-on, not remotely. At its core the film represents an intellectual male artist’s arduous, wayward, idiocentric, blunt, naughty-boy attempt to address Freud’s famous question, “What does a woman want?” As usual with von Trier, art house partisans will check it out, perhaps a bit more than the norm in this case, but the general public will steer clear, despite presumed universal interest in the subject matter.
Xan Brooks at The Guardian:
Hang on to your seat back, your Bible, or the hand of a friend. Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac bludgeons the body and tenderises the soul. It is perplexing, preposterous and utterly fascinating; a false bill of goods in that it’s a film about sex that is deliberately unsexy and a long, garrulous story (two volumes, four hours) that largely talks to itself. Those naked figures in motion are just a distraction. To blunder in on Nymphomaniac is to catch the sight of a middle-aged Dane masturbating alone in a darkened room. It may be sensational, it might even be art. But I’m not sure it is intended for public consumption.
Boyd Van Hoeij at Indiewire:
While 90 minutes shorter than the version von Trier himself has made (rather than the “abridged and censored” version that hits Danish theaters Christmas Day ahead of its 2014 U.S. release), as it stands, “Nymphomaniac” is indeed a major work that tries and, to a large extent, succeeds to organically synthesize the world, ideas and filmmaking savvy of von Trier in one sprawling and ambitious cinematic fable. Somewhat shockingly given the subject matter, the most stimulating material in “Nymphomaniac” isn’t the explicit sex but how sexuality is discussed and understood.
Dave Calhoun at Time Out:
Lars Von Trier’s wild, sprawling ‘Nymphomaniac’ is an orgy of the sublime and the ridiculous. It exists in two versions of differing lengths and explicitness. This is the first episode of a shorter, cleaner version (still, it’s unlikely to play in Dubai or Idaho). It opens with a disclaimer stating that the director wasn’t involved in the editing – although it has been cut with his permission from the longer, Lars-approved film. You feel short-changed: whose film is it then? What am I missing? Bigger cocks? More close-ups of injured, over-exercised clitorises? Oh yes, there’s nothing coy about it.
Danish director Lars Von Trier’s anti-raunchy sexual epic about one hyper-promiscuous woman assumes a darker shade in this second, final episode. Our anti-heroine Joe (first Stacy Martin, later Charlotte Gainsbourg) now recounts to her one-man audience (Stellan Skarsgård) how, in middle age, she came to lose all sense of sexual pleasure and find a sadder joy in masochism, threat and violence. While much of the sex in the first film came across as a childish game, here it feels like self-imposed punishment as Joe submits to the whips of an S&M master (Jamie Bell) and the dangerous thrills of sex with strangers, abandoning her sleeping child at night.
Fabien Lemercier at CineEuropa (translated from French):
A fascinating work despite it’s slightly chaotic side with a multitude of occult sub-readings and a few pointless provocations slipped in by Lars von Trier on the topic of his alleged anti-Semitism, Nymphomaniac – Part 1 is an added proof of the virtuosity of a filmmaker torn between the flesh and the spirit, a great disturbed artist working on the chaotic border between notions of good and evil, a director navigating from German metal band Rammstein to the sound of leaves rustling in the wind. A whole programme filled and consumed with excess (until the ultimate vanity of mentioning that the film is a “short and censured version”, “without his involvement”) that will hit European theatres as of December 25.
Damon Wise at Empire:
Funnily enough, though, Nymphomaniac not only feels like a complete film, it doesn’t feel madly long in its four-hour format, which breaks down roughly into 1hr 50 for Volume One and 2hrs 10 for Volume Two. First things first, however: this is not an entry-level Von Trier film, and it helps to have a certain familiarity with his style and themes. In many ways, it is a greatest hits package, since it reprises certain moments from his entire back catalogue, usually with a wink (such as a moment that threatens to re-enact Antichrist’s harrowing opening scene beat for beat).
Sophie Monks Kaufman at Little White Lies:
Lars von Trier’s two-part psychosexual epic makes for invigorating, profound and occasionally baffling viewing. Forget the headline-grabbing sexploitation-based marketing images that have been gleefully circulated online. The slimline version (two times two-hour volumes instead of the director’s preferred five-and-a-half hour cut) of Lars von Trier’s digressive, character-driven odyssey may show a lot of naked fun times, but it is more deeply concerned with loneliness, self-loathing and what becomes of a person whose behaviour takes them beyond the limits of polite society.
Nymphomaniac: Part One hits VOD on March 6th, 2014 before landing in theatres on March 21st, 2014. Nymphomaniac: Part Two hits VOD on April 3rd, 2014 and will then come to theatres on April 18th, 2014.