Me and Lars Van Trier have a conflicted relationship. Of course it's one he's not aware of since he wouldn't know me from a hole in the wall, but it's conflicted nonetheless. Personally, I thought his movie 'Anti-Christ' was a horrific piece of misogynistic propaganda not worthy of the film stock it was shot on, but then there came 'Melancholia'… which while a little confusing and probably still somewhat misogynistic… but it was somewhat enchanting. Now comes 'Nymphomania Volume 1'. Was it misogynistic? Hell yeah it is. When Lars isn't saying crazy, Nazi themed comments in Cannes press junkets, what he needs to be doing is explaining why he has so many issues with women. The movie itself… well… that's another thing we will have to discuss.
A man (Stellan Skarsgard) stumbles across a woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) laid out in an alley, clearly having just taken a solid ass whipping. He offers to get her some help, she declines, claiming all she really needs is some hot tea with milk. No problem. This dude, Steligman, helps this woman, Joe, to her feet, takes her home, puts her in bed and makes her a hot cup of tea.
Since Joe is going to be there for a minute, she decides to tell Steligman her tale. Joe claims to be a terrible person. Just awful. Steligman claims he's never met a terrible person, but Joe assures him that he just has.
But what makes Joe terrible? We're not exactly sure. She hasn't done anything in Volume 1 that would force me to put her in the category of 'terrible'. Morally dubious, no doubt, but terrible? Maybe in Volume II we will see the terrible.
Our story starts with Joe spying a fishing fly on the wall, relevant in the sense that fly fishing and getting men to have sex with you are similar. I guess. We should probably mention that Lars Von Trier also wrote this so I can see where the author, searching for something to relate with nymphomania, went with something he already understood and just tried to make that work. Anyway, from a young age Joe was fascinated with the sensations generated via her vagina and this is something that she will not break free from. With the help of her BFF Bee (Sophie Kennedy Clark), these girls grow up trying to sex up as many men as possible. Young Joe (Stacy Martin) would take things to a level that even Bee wasn't comfortable with, who eventually bowed out of their little game.
Stacy would tell Steigelman about her first, Jerome (Shia Lebouf), then the litany of dudes that would follow, her deep love of her father (Christian Slater) and the distance she felt from her mother (Connie Nielson), to occasionally destroying a family here and there and how having sex with certain men equates to a Bach three part movement. Again, I think the writer is attempting to translate something he doesn't understand into something that he does. And it continues until she finds Jerome once again. Then loses Jerome, then finds him again. But to what end? Now that's a good question my friend.
Let's get a few things straight. I've heard 'Nymphomania vol. I' called porn. It's not. I've seen porn, and you probably have seen it too, and this isn't it. I think there was this scene where our young ingénue might've been blowing a guy, maybe, possibly, if you squint… but there's no 'maybe' or 'possibly' in porn, plus, despite porn's somewhat insidious nature, it is designed to titillate or excite in some kind of way. Believe me… there is nothing… nothing… titillating or exciting about the sex being performed in this film. Nothing. This film doesn't do for sex addiction what Steve McQueen's 'Shame' does for sex addiction, possibly because Lars von Trier isn't the filmmaker that Steve McQueen is… yes I did… but still, there's nothing 'sexy' or desirable about the sex that Joe is describing to Stigelman.
But the question remains, 'what is this thing?' Based on Volume I, I'd be forced to say that this is nothing. A series of short vignettes loosely linked together, interspersed with odd flashbacks and allegorical images combining to create not a gatdamn thing. Now I've heard that it all comes together in Volume II, but based on what I saw with Volume I, I had no real intention of seeing the next installment… but then something strange happened.
The movie goes off, I'm semi-proud of myself that I made it through, I recognized this as pointless… but then the things that I had seen started to develop in my minds-eye, long after I had dismissed this mess. I wasn't thinking about these things as the movie was playing as I just wanted it to be over, but now I'm pondering Joe's pathology. Now I'm wondering why Joe is the way that she is. Joe says her addiction isn't a need, but a lust. But what's the difference? It looks like young Joe still enjoys the act, so maybe that's the difference. My initial thoughts of 'Nymphomania Volume I' being pointless hasn't changed, but now I'm becoming invested in the character of Joe, if only because vol. 1 hasn't developed her all that much, and I still want to know what makes her a terrible person.
I don't know how this happened, and I'm not happy about it. Now I will have to watch Volume II, desperately hoping it to be less pointless. Hoping Charlotte Gainsbourg gets out of that bed and stabs Stellan Skarsgard in the eye or something. Anything. There has to be a point to this four hour expedition.