Part of Film4’s “Love and Sex” season, this was a film that I initially wasn’t interested in watching at all. I guess that the title threw me a bit; I assumed that it would be just about sex and not that much else. But with “The Duke of Burgundy” on in a couple of days, I figured that I would partake of another film in this Film4 season, so I sat down and watched it, honestly hoping for a decent plot and not just sex.
Well, it turns out that I had nothing to worry about because “Nymphomaniac: Volume I” turned out to be a very engaging, fascinating film.
I guess that I’d better start with the plot, seeing as how I was unsure as to whether this film would actually have one or not! Thankfully, the story is indeed very interesting, following the odyssey of Joe’s life, certain events often being recalled after talking about particular things with Stellan Skarsgard’s character, such as fishing, music and art. On a similar note, comparing various sexual encounters to fishing and the like is very interesting indeed! The film often includes various “asides” and these certainly hold our interest throughout.
It was also reassuring to see Von Trier keeping to his Dogme 95 principles, using handheld cameras and natural light and locations; this is used very effectively in the film, being reminiscent of “Breaking the Waves”, and making the film incredibly engaging.
As for the sex scenes themselves, they are undoubtedly more graphic than those you’d find in most other films, though they are used appropriately and with definite logic and reason. While some of these scenes may raise a few eyebrows, Von Trier never crosses the line.
Music plays a large part in this film, especially in the final chapter, and it is used perfectly. The use of rock at the beginning and end helps to create a certain degree of excitement, while the classical pieces give the film an air of thoughtfulness and fascination. As mentioned previously, the “Cantus Firmus” section is wonderful and the idea of comparing three different “voices” to three different kinds of sexual encounter is interesting and amazing.
Also, this film is also darkly funny and many moments certainly make you smile and even laugh.
There aren’t too many negative points to be found, although I will say that the “Delirium” chapter is perhaps not as good as the rest; this chapter primarily focuses on Joe’s relationship with her father and it had me losing a bit of interest.
So in conclusion, this is a very well thought out film; sometimes eyebrow-raising, sometimes funny, sometimes shocking, “Nymphomaniac: Volume I” is fascinating, intelligent and constantly engaging.