Nymphomaniac Vol. I Review: When Real Sex Meets Body Doubles

Don’t let the big name cast and director fool you. This movie is as raunchy as it gets.

Nymphomaniac Vol. I is the first installment of the two-part drama, created by Danish screenwriter and director Lars von Trier. Nymphomaniac, appearing as NYMP()MANIAC, is the third and final film in von Trier’s “Depression Trilogy”—it’s predecessors, Antichrist (2009) and Melancholia (2011). Moviegoers will soon find out what the recent controversy is about when Nymphomaniac Vol. I comes to theaters later this month.

Our protagonist is a woman named ‘Joe’ (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who is found lying in an alley beaten. Luckily, ‘Seligman’ (Stellan Skarsgård), a passerby, takes her back to his apartment to tend to her wounds by serving her tea. It is there that the self-proclaimed nymphomaniac tells Seligman about her lustful past. Over the next two hours, we mainly witness flashbacks of ‘Young Joe’ (Stacy Martin) making many notches in her bedpost. Seligman intently listens and compares some of Joe’s sex-capades to fly-fishing. Yes, fly-fishing.

With a star studded cast: Shia LaBeouf, who plays Jerome, the man who took Joe’s virginity, Christian Slater and Connie Nielsen as Joe’s parents, Uma Thurman, as ‘Mrs. H’, a heartbroken mother, who takes her four boys to see the bed their father prefers to sleep in, and Willem Dafoe, Jamie Bell and Nicolas Bro act as a few of Joe’s many lovers—the sheer amount of genitals on the screen could be shocking. Almost as shocking as discovering that it is in fact real sex.

Apparently, they “shot the actors pretending to have sex and then had the body doubles, who really did have sex, and in post” they digitally imposed “the two,” Louise Vesth, the film’s producer, explained to The Hollywood Reporter at the Cannes Film Festival. “So above the waist it will be the star and below the waist it will be the doubles.”

Body double or not, the first sex-scene clearly shows LaBeouf with his instrument in his hand, and we’re not talking about the musical kind he played with his pal Beans in Even Stevens.

“The movie is what you think it is,” LaBeouf told MTV News in pre-production of the film. “It is Lars von Trier, making a movie about what he’s making. It’s going to be a wild movie.”

“Wild,” indeed. Just when you might think Joe can’t possibly have any more sex, she compares her vagina to an automatic door in a supermarket. This is not too long after the montage of penises. Small penises, large penises, circumcised penises, uncircumcised penises, beige, brown, orange, yellow, indigo penises—Nymphomaniac can definitely help you cross off “see as many male genitals as possible” from a bucket list—if that’s your thing.

“It’s a film about flesh and the crudity of sex,” explains Gainsbourg in an interview after the credits.

Vol. I is an uneasy viewing experience, which was probably von Trier’s intention. You are left wondering why Joe “rebels against love” in the first place. Maybe Vol. 2 will clear up the questions that went unanswered through the lackluster narrative in between the hard-core pornographic material.

Nymphomaniac Vol. I comes to American theatres on March 21st and Nymphomaniac Vol. 2 will premiere April 18th.

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