If you thought Vol. I was a brilliant piece of provocation, then Vol. II might disappoint you with its detour into (relative) conventionality, its attacks on arthouse artificiality, and its apparently very different politics. But if you found Vol. I to be as silly as some did, then Vol. II suggests something interesting: Lars von Trier might agree.
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Taken as a whole, with volumes one and two in concert, Nymphomaniac looks like nothing less than a career overview, touring each era of the director’s development.
We’re never far from Von Trier, and both Skarsgård and Gainsbourg appear to offer different versions of the author himself.
A rich movie, seductive when abandoning people for falling snow or bleak nature and funny, painful and unflinching when it gets physical.
It’s one thing to declare sex a fact of life and insist that audiences confront their unease at seeing it depicted (or, equally constructive, their intense excitation at its mere mention), but quite another to fashion a fictional woman’s life around nothing but sex. As courageously depicted by Gainsbourg, Jo is ultimately a tragic character.
The point is that you could watch these films for four hours, then spend 14 arguing about them – about whether sex, for vor Trier, is an eternal human mystery, or a cosmic joke at our expense.
Volume two gets down in ways the first half doesn't, although anything resembling real sensuality remains MIA.
It is so laden with highly charged set pieces, so dappled with haunting ideas and bold flights of fancy that it finally achieves a kind of slow-burn transcendence.