Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman Revealed
The Inside Story Of Sideshow Collectibles
Guardians Of The Galaxy Review
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
Subscribe: 6 Issues For £15!
Subscribe today and save 37% off the cover price!
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
Click poster to enlarge
More posters to select

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Shia LaBeouf
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Willem Dafoe
Christian Slater
Jamie Bell
Stellan Skarsgård
Uma Thurman.
Directors
Lars von Trier.
Screenwriters
Lars von Trier.
Running Time
122 / 123 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
All This Mayhem
3 Star Empire Rating
Guardians Of The Galaxy
4 Star Empire Rating
A Promise
1 Star Empire Rating
A Night At The Cinema In 1914
4 Star Empire Rating
Hide Your Smiling Faces
4 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Two Days, One Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Some Like It Hot
5 Star Empire Rating
A Hard Day's Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Boyhood
5 Star Empire Rating
Rebel Without A Cause
5 Star Empire Rating

Nymphomaniac Volumes I And II
You’ve Seen The Poster...


submit to reddit


Plot
Scholarly Seligman (Skarsgård) finds Joe (Gainsbourg) injured in an alley and takes her in. She recounts the story of her life from childhood — focusing on her many sexual encounters, on-off relationship with businessman Jerome (LaBeouf) and the trauma which left her in that passageway.


Review
Nymphomaniac Volumes I And II

There will be many variant cuts of Lars von Trier’s ambitious drama, depending on how tolerant different territories are to explicit imagery and different distributors and cinema managers are to extended running times. In the UK, Nymphomaniac is released as two distinct Kill Bill-style volumes, with their own credits and end titles and even a “Coming up next on Nymphomaniac” montage at the tail of the first film to lure you back. There has been behind-the-scenes drama about the project, with debate between von Trier and his producers about what exactly to release... with a longer, perhaps more hardcore version due eventually on DVD.

Von Trier’s Kingdom was a forerunner of the talking-point genre TV that dominates the box set market, and anyone who’s ever watched a season of The Killing or Breaking Bad in one marathon go will recognise the way long-haul narrative can be compulsive. This finds its own rhythm early and is unusually free of dead spots. There’s a Scheherazade factor as Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), the battered, self-hating protagonist, tells interlocking stories of her past — with digressions and footnotes from her pedantic, attentive listener — and keeps teasing us with hints of more revelations.

The conclusion of a trilogy which began with Antichrist and Melancholia (all starring Gainsbourg), this follows a self-declared “bad human being” whose compulsive behaviour takes her into stranger and stranger territory. Seemingly set in England — only Shia LaBeouf’s accent wobbles — between the 1970s and the 2000s, it focuses so narrowly on Joe’s search for sex that the world beyond her bedrooms is out of focus.

Volume I showcases newcomer Stacy Martin as Young Joe and covers childhood, a relationship with a loving father (Christian Slater) whose death in hospital (in black and white) is the most upsetting episode, loss of virginity to a moped-owning lout (LaBeouf) who pops in and out of her later life, teenage sex adventures and a farcical yet nightmarish confrontation with the wife (Uma Thurman) of a lover Joe isn’t that keen on. Volume II is more wayward, with Gainsbourg taking over, falling under the spell of a polite professional sadist (Jamie Bell). Eventually, she turns her acquired callousness to good use as a shady debt collector, taking on a surrogate daughter (Mia Goth) in a partnership which inevitably becomes sexual and equally inevitably doesn’t turn out well.

Throughout, Stellan Skarsgård enjoys himself hugely, rattling off illustrated footnotes about fly-fishing, musical or mathematical theory and mythology, but his character, Seligman, seems not to respond sexually to the stories — which are explicit, but often show things porn would be uncomfortable with (a dying man crapping himself, guys with erections having a row that scuppers a planned threesome).

Late in the day we learn about Joe’s tactic for literally getting a rise out of victims, which raises questions about the film’s storytelling kink that aren’t resolved. A coda feels trite — as if the whole epic were reduced to the two-minute skit about nymphomania Woody Allen does in Play It Again, Sam — and winds the symphony up on a bum note, but it’s still a rich movie, seductive when abandoning people for falling snow or bleak nature and funny, painful and unflinching when it gets physical.
 


Verdict
A provocative, engrossing, often hilarious, frequently tough picture. Not for all sensibilities but it’s among von Trier’s more playful, purely entertaining films, with insight and humour in even the horrors.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for Nymphomaniac Volumes I And II
Empire Star Rating

Purposely slow and very engrossing stuff!

This seems to be turning out to be very much a marmite film which I'm sure Von Trier will be very pleased with. I'm a fan of his work and this latest tale of sex addiction didn't disappoint me or my partner. A film which to me was quite meaningful, at times very funny, slightly disturbing but not overly gratuitous and definitely a film with a heart as it has it's share of sad moments throughout. If you're looking for an excuse for porn you'll be disappointed as the sex scenes are purposely made ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dannyfletch at 13:39, 12 May 2014 | Report This Post


Preposterous, Pretentious, Patronising and Dull.

4 hours of unsexy, unfunny, not nearly as smart as it thinks dullness. I have defended many Von Trier films in the past but this was too much. None of the stories were compelling or believable, and every single relationship was contrived and cartoonish. The sex was neither erotic or shocking just bizarre and pointless. I'd be offended if I wasn't so bored by it all. And a 4 star review from Empire is the funniest thing about it. What a shame. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kirk1973 at 11:53, 19 March 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Nymphomaniac Volumes I And II

Volume I A couple of years ago I could say that I liked more Von Trier than I disliked. With Dancer in the Dark, Melancholia and now Nymphomaniac it's an even split between favourable and non-favourable. I was sure I'd be shocked (duh) but find brilliance in this. But it's shocking and pretty woeful at the same time. The best thing about it is the Gainsbourg/Skarsgard scenes. There's something affecting about Gainsbourg's gossamer voice intoning not unpleasantly through an unpleasant ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by demoncleaner at 07:10, 14 March 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Zzzzzzzz..

dull ..the only thing worthy of note is Shia The Beef's dreadful cockney accent. Leez! Leez! Can oi getta cuppa tay pleeze?!" Ricky Gervais would be proud of that David Brent performance. Only entertaining part of this film. The rest is just a load of old toss. Nearly un-watchable. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spamandham at 21:26, 13 March 2014 | Report This Post


Zzzzzzzz..

This bored me to pieces, an amazing achievement by Von Tripe to make on screen nudity and sex dreadfully dull ..the only thing worthy of note is Shia The Beef's dreadful cockney accent. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Azzurro06 at 17:57, 23 February 2014 | Report This Post


SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Empire's The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies Covers Are Here
Bard The Bowman or Smaug The Magnificent?

A Pocket Guide To Game Of Thrones’ New Cast Members
Know your Doran Martell from your Nym Sand

Directors Special: Peter Hyams Goes Film-By-Film
The veteran director on Timecop, Outland, 2010, Enemies Closer and more

Explore The Massive Avengers: Age Of Ultron Comic-Con Banner
Use our interactive gadget to zoom in on Hulk, Iron Man, The Vision and co. in action

The 10 Biggest Stories Of Comic-Con 2014
The shocks to emerge from this year's geek-fest. Avengers! Max! Mann!

Models Inc.: The Inside Story Of Sideshow Collectibles
How the likes of Batman, Superman and Luke Skywalker become collectible figures

The Empire Podcast #121: Brett Ratner Talks Hercules On This Week's Show
Plus The Purge: Anarchy producer Jason Blum pops in to talk horror

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time Subscribers' Cover

Subscribe today and get the cover and 3 issues for only £10!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)