Stellan Skårsgard

REVIEW: ‘Nymphomania Vol. 2’ Ventures Into the Danger Zone

No doubt anticipating my review of his Nymphomania Vol. 1, Lars von Trier directly acknowledges his references to Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life — The Cantebury Tales, The Decameron, and The Arabian Nights — in the beginning of the far more tenebrous, shakier Vol. 2. The academic Seligman (Stellan Skårsgard) also begins quoting Freud, referencing his position as therapist/confessor to the battered Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) lying in his bed with a cup of tea that she has nursed for a couple of hours now, but which we will find out when she flings it against the wall is still mostly full. Having nodded to these tropes and devices, the director throws a few more into the mix, namely religion and the notion that pain and self-abnegation are conduits to ecstatic enlightenment.

But first, von Trier takes a moment to address his public-persona problems, which he has battled since being declared persona non grata at the Cannes Film Festival, following a delirious rant at a press conference about how people like him are all Nazis.

Charlotte Gainsbourg

REVIEW: ‘Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1’ Explores the Meaning of Feelings

I divide feature-length motion pictures into three categories: movies, which are what the studios make for the most part; film, which is David O. Russell, PT Anderson, Woody Allen, et al., and just about everything at festivals like Sundance; cinema, which is the more transcendent work of auteurs like Won Kar Wai and Terrence Malick, which breaks convention with a singular vision but still retains the cohesiveness of narrative entertainment. Lars von Trier falls into the cinema category, and his Nymphomaniac is an instant-classic example of my definition.

(There is a fourth category, fine-art film, which is long-form filmed art made by the likes of Peter Greenaway and Matthew Barney; Greenaway used to make cinema, which is to say his films once had some form of cohesive narrative structure, but he seems to have abandoned that altogether recently.