Subject to lots of talk, speculation and an endless amount of hype thanks to a relentless marketing campaign, Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac" has finally been seen by a select batch of critics, and the verdict? Well, the early reviews are mostly positive, with many emphasizing the intellectual ideas tossed around, rather than the hardcore sex that's also part of the package.
To recap, Charlotte Gainsbourg leads the sex epic, playing a woman who recounts/confesses her sex life to a stranger after being found beaten in an alley. Oh Lars. And in case there was any doubt, given the chatter regarding a longer director's cut, an on-screen disclaimer notes that this version playing for critics and headed for theatrical release around the world, is "abridged and censored." But how did it all turn out? Is it as provocative as you'd think? Here's what the reviews have to say:
Variety: "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 a better fit for cinephiles than the raincoat crowd."
The Hollywood Reporter: "...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?' "
Cineuropa: "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."
Time Out London: "Lars Von Trier’s wild, sprawling ‘Nymphomaniac’ is an orgy of the sublime and the ridiculous...Chaotic and not especially pretty, the film has more of the punkish, radical spirit of Von Trier’s ‘The Idiots’ or ‘Dogville’ than the gloss or contained drama of ‘Melancholia’ or ‘Antichrist’—although the nominal British setting and interest in religion and a promiscuous woman nod to ‘Breaking the Waves’ too."
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."
Indiewire: "Lars von Trier's latest film, 'Nymphomaniac'...is nothing less than the director's bid to make his magnum opus..."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. This being a von Trier film, there’s a good deal of humor, too. The director's script includes plenty of inventive sexual inquiry, including a monologue that compares the hunt for sex to fly-fishing and a lengthy discussion of how sexual pain compares to the divide between the Western and the Eastern Church."
"Nymphomaniac: Part One" opens in theaters on March 21, 2014, and will be available On Demand starting March 6, 2014. "Nymphomaniac: Part Two" will open in theaters on April 18, 2014 and will be available On Demand as of April 3, 2014.