The Darker Side of a Nymphomaniac

Posted 10:25 AM March 30th, 2014 by popcorn
Charlotte Gainsbourg being sandwiched in "Nymphomaniac: Vol. II"

If you have seen Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac Vol. 1, the explicit pornographic scenes may have cease to shock you. Nymphomaniac Vol. 2 shocks in a different way, by being a darker story that takes some unexpected turns. While the first film evokes sexual pleasure and maintains a sense of humor about sex, the second film snaps you out of it, into the reality of her pain and suffering of an incurable addiction.

Nymphomaniac 1 ends with Joe’s insensitivity to sexual pleasure with or without Jerome. In Nymphomaniac 2, Jerome, who blames himself for Joe’s lack of sexual satisfaction, reluctantly encourages her to have sex with other men again. He spends most of his time away on business, and the few moments he is around shows a man filled with sexual rage and probably disgust, which he indirectly expresses by condemning her failure and irresponsibility as a mother.

Joe’s journey to sexual rediscovery still brings the audience light-hearted humor and pleasure as she indulges in sex with insignificant alphabetized individuals, such as encounters with African men whose humongous penises are indicative of their over-inflated egos. This time, her addiction is no longer about carefree sex but about a conflicted woman struggling between periods of deep self-loathing and acceptance of her own demise. Attempts at ridding herself of the sexual temptations only draws her closer to her sexual desires, which seems to grow stronger and demand more risque stimulations. She then enters the world of sadism and masochism (S&M), which blurs the lines between pain and pleasure, allowing beatings so bloody and torturous that I wonder if she subconsciously is punishing herself for her wrong-doings.

Her one salvation comes from being an underground debt collector, using her sexual prowess to bribe and extort her victims into submission. Here, she switches roles from being a submissive receiver to an all-consuming addiction to one of a domineering giver, completely in control of her sexual desires.

The second movie completes the twelve step addiction process and offers closer to her sufferings with a faster paced, engaging and darker tone. Every sentence and story is just as poetic and well-written as the first movie, minus the drawn out and overdone sex scenes, although lacking in the interesting parallels between her life and Seligman’s passions. The simplicity of von Trier’s scenes envelopes you deeper into each character’s psych, so much so that the ending is hard for me to accept. Would a man who is asexual and has plenty of opportunities in his long lifetime to try sexual pleasure do what Seligman did in the ending? Regardless of the ending, the film was entertaining and enjoyable from foreplay to the morning after.

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