Nymphomaniac Vol 1 & 2 movie review: behold the alien Woman

MaryAnn’s quick take: A salacious yet also tedious portrayal of a woman who would appear to confirm all the nastiest stereotypes about women. Completely unfun, unpleasant, unerotic, and unenlightening.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): not a fan of Lars von Trier
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
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In a cinematic environment in which women were depicted, overall, as fully rounded human beings with a wide range of sexual expression available to them without judgment or disapproval, Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac would still be a disgusting, degrading portrait of a terrible person that is completely unfun, unpleasant, unerotic, and unenlightening. But in the cinematic environment we actually have, it is a salacious yet also tedious portrayal of a woman who would appear to confirm all the nastiest stereotypes about women: that they sexually prey upon and sexually manipulate men purely for the power rush of it, and not because they actually enjoy sex at all. They just put up a facade of being cock-hungry sluts, for reasons only mysterious, unknowable, alien-like women can possibly comprehend. I mean, what is it with them, anyway? If only we could talk to women and ask them…

I suspect that von Trier believes that Nymphomaniac is him talking to a woman (one invented in his head, but still) and asking her just why she’s just such an awful person. And, sure, you could say that this is just one woman depicted here, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg [Melancholia, I’m Not There], and as a teen and young woman, Stacy Martin), and she’s not intended to represent anything other than herself. Fine. But there’s still huge problems with this that continue to make me believe that if von Trier loves women (as his defenders say he does), he’s got strange ideas about what love means. It’s certainly not about abuse, cold disregard, and pretending to get close while remaining distant.

Hey! Maybe that’s why the great “love” of Joe’s life is supposedly her twisted relationship with the awful Jerome (Shia LaBeouf [Lawless, Transformers: Dark of the Moon], sporting a terrible British accent for no reason; the character could just as easily have been American). Cuz von Trier (Melancholia, Dogville) wrote this as well as directed it, so we’re actually getting his idea of love here, perhaps. Joe’s first encounter with Jerome is the beginning of her sexual odyssey, when she (around the age of 14 or so) asks him (much older) to take her virginity. Which he does, with five quick unromantic thrusts into her vagina and three into her anus. (She counts. The count is somehow important. Von Trier puts the count up on the screen in case you missed it.) Neither seem to get any pleasure out of this encounter — it’s purely mechanical. She certainly ends up in pain, we can tell from the camera up her ass (figuratively) as she lurches away.

And there’s the first hint that this is not the story of a woman’s sexual life, but the story of a man looking at a woman as a sexual thing. Certainly Joe can have no memories of seeing her own ass from a short distance away. This not-Joe’s perspective occurs again in the next chapter of her story, when she and a girlfriend, both still underage teens, engage in a contest aboard a commuter train to see who can fuck the most men on the train in the shortest time. As they sashay along the train corridors seeking likely targets, there’s the camera’s POV again, down at an impossible eye level (unless it’s meant to be that of an invisible midget or child, though there’s no evidence of this) leering at Joe’s underage ass.

Here’s the thing: Joe is telling her sexual life story to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård: Thor: The Dark World, The Avengers). It’s the really long version of a story meant to explain why he found her beaten up and unconscious in an alleyway near where he lives, and why she dismisses her state of beat-into-unconsciousness as “[her] own fault” because she’s “just a bad human being.” (I think the aspect of this story that’s meant to be “compassionate” is Joe’s self-hatred. You know, like von Trier thinks it’s “sympathetic” to create a character who is a terrible, terrible human being as long as she’s aware of it and expresses how aware she is of it over and over again. There is such a thing as being masochistic toward one’s own fictional creation, and this is a great example of it.) So, we could take Nymphomaniac the movie as not representing von Trier’s perspective but Seligman’s perspective, as if it’s him having all those lustful visions of Joe being a bad, bad girl. Except that doesn’t make the situation any better, and there’s good reason later on, when we learn more about Seligman, for concluding that this cannot be the case anyway.

As Joe tells her story to Seligman, we can’t even be sure she’s telling anything like the truth. Because, just like Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects, she grabs glimpses of the things that Seligman is interested in from the stuff in his apartment — he’s into fly-fishing, for instance — and incorporates those things into her story, and encourages Seligman to play along. Just as her life has been one long trail of manipulating men for her own purposes, she’s attempting to manipulate Seligman for some reason that is never clear, except that it probably means we can believe at least some of her story: she manipulates because she can, because she has a vagina and an ass that men cannot help themselves from fucking at the slightest invitation. (As with most examples of misogyny, men fare as badly here as women do. Men are nothing but fuck machines on autopilot, we learn. How nice for them!) But some of the stuff she relates to Seligman is so mendaciously absurd that it cannot be taken seriously. Her religiously ecstatic vision, as a 12-year-old, of the Whore of Babylon, accompanied by her first (spontaneous) orgasm is one. (I’m not making this up. Von Trier made this up, and thinks it’s somehow illuminating or even mildly interesting.) Her story of “Mrs. H” (Uma Thurman: Movie 43, Bel Ami), the wife of one of the men she has been particularly cruelly manipulative of, is so preposterous that the only saving of it is to presume that von Trier believes that, yeah, pretty much all women are dangerously cruel to boys and men in all sorts of ways (which, again, is not helping von Trier’s case any). We cannot trust Joe, and we can’t believe her. Just like a woman?

I wish I had some idea what von Trier was trying to get at with this yawning pile of nonsense. Teenage girls will prostitute themselves for as little as a bag of chocolate? Men are mindless fish? Four fucking hours of Nymphomaniac — and fours hours of fucking — and at the end of it, I don’t know why I am supposed to have bothered. Movie characters don’t have to be likable, and Joe certainly is not, but they should at least be fascinating. They certainly need to justify a four-hour-long movie about themselves. (And despite the Volume 1/Volume 2 crap, this is just one long movie, not two distinct ones.) But for a story that’s supposed to make us understand why she is the way she is, she’s as big a mystery at the end as she was at the beginning. What are we meant to take from this except “women are weird and strange and unknowable”?

Except, you know, we aren’t.

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RogerBW
RogerBW
Thu, Mar 20, 2014 6:26pm

I’m sure the defenders will show up here soon enough. I’ll just object from a different angle: there are basically no sympathetic people in this film, are there? So we get to hear and see nasty people lying to each other for four hours, plus some amateur porn. Yay.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  RogerBW
Thu, Mar 20, 2014 9:27pm

No sympathetic people at all.

aon
aon
Fri, Mar 21, 2014 12:14am

I hate reviews like this. Okay, I can see you not liking this film, Von Trier’s films aren’t for everyone, I’m sure you watch blander stuff normally. But to say that he must hate and not understand women because you hated and didn’t understand the movie is silly. Jo is presented as a sympathetic anti-hero, not a monster. You see her as a monster because you didn’t get the film (and maybe have some prudish issues with sexuality, you do seem to see it as inherently immoral). If you’re not even going to try to engage with a film on it’s own terms why bother?

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  aon
Fri, Mar 21, 2014 3:41am

I’m sure you watch blander stuff normally.

Boy, aren’t you hip and edgy. I bet you even burn your mouth every morning drinking your coffee before it’s cool. >.<

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  aon
Fri, Mar 21, 2014 3:43am

just to be clear here: “You don’t get it” isn’t actually a defense of the film. And accusing MAJ of being bland and prudish indicates that you’re more interested in being an insufferable hipster jerk than in defending the film at all.

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  aon
Fri, Mar 21, 2014 5:51am

She did engage with it on its own terms. Its terms were dull, cryptic, and psychologically implausible, and they objectified women. MaryAnn didn’t object to the sexual content. She objected to the flaws in the storytelling.

If you don’t agree with her interpretation of the story, explain why it’s wrong. Tell us why you think Joe is sympathetic. Tell us why she’s a believable character. If you just call MaryAnn a prude, with no evidence to back it up, it sounds like childish name-calling, and it sounds like you haven’t read the review.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  aon
Fri, Mar 21, 2014 10:00am

In what way do I “seem to see [sexuality] as inherently immoral)”? I’d love to know.

Are you suggesting that I am allowed to not like the film, but not allowed to say anything beyond that except to throw up my hands and say I didn’t get it?

What terms of the films did I not engage with?

Please defend the movie if you disagree with me — with examples *from* the film. Or else I’ll jus have to accuse you of hating me because you don’t get me, and not engaging with me on my own terms.

CB
CB
reply to  aon
Sat, Mar 22, 2014 7:19pm

It might be helpful for you to read MaryAnn’s review of a different movie about a nymphomaniac who got the crap beaten out of her just prior to being found by the male lead.
https://www.flickfilosopher.com/2007/03/black-snake-moan-review.html

When you compare the content of the reviews, versus the content of the movies, maybe you can make a less empty criticism than “you see sex as inherently immoral”.

Rod Ribeiro
Rod Ribeiro
reply to  aon
Mon, Mar 24, 2014 10:54pm

*** spoiler, kinda ***

“You see her as a monster because you didn’t get the film (and maybe have some prudish issues with sexuality…)”

Maybe YOU didn’t understand the film. If Nymphomaniac were about food, Joe would be a morbid obese stuffing herself all the time and telling the story of her suffering from being fat (not from eating) since adolescent. The nice guy listening to it would turn out be a fakir in the end.

If you don’t have issues with food, that’s disgusting, borderline monstrous. Unless you do have issues with food, and the discovery of how eating is both natural and necessary, excesses avoided, is somehow enlightening to you.

So there you go, maybe YOU have issues with sexuality.

Matt Clayton
Matt Clayton
Fri, Mar 21, 2014 3:43pm

I never understand Lars von Trier. From his pioneering that bullshit Dogme 95 movement to the flavorless and boring Dancer in the Dark…. I never understand why some love his work. In addition to his dreary aesthetics (save for Antichrist and Melancholia) there’s a xenophobic and sexist tone in his movies. Maybe he should actually go to America, instead of forcing his actors to fly to Germany or France, and make a movie there.

Nymphomaniac Vol 1 just seems like another von Trier film with nothing to offer. Amateur sex? Charlotte Gainsbourg being exploited again? Shia LaBeouf with an awful accent? I’ll pass.

TommyB
TommyB
reply to  Matt Clayton
Sun, Mar 23, 2014 10:43pm

How does von Trier “force” anyone to go anywhere? Maybe with a pile of cash?
And some people actually enjoy going to a foreign country for a while.
I don’t particularly like von Trier’s movies, at least the ones I watched, but if you use words like “xenophobic” and “sexist”, at least explain why you think that.

Matt Clayton
Matt Clayton
reply to  TommyB
Mon, Mar 24, 2014 1:03am

Dogville comes off as very anti-American, particularly the final shot of Americans in poverty. It comes off as stilted and un-authentic. His choice to shoot the film on a soundstage, with all the actors playing unlikeable and unsavory characters. And as for sexist… von Trier tends to have depressing and melancholic female characters (Breaking the Waves, Melancholia, Antichrist).

I don’t know if his films would be drastically different if he wasn’t afraid of flying — but I don’t think he’s willing to immerse himself in different cultures, let alone understand women (and not categorize them as depressed or horny). Hence my comment about him coming to the United States to make a movie. He doesn’t just get it.

jg
jg
Sun, Mar 30, 2014 7:27pm

“But for a story that’s supposed to make us understand why she is the way she is, she’s as big a mystery at the end as she was at the beginning.”

No she is not. At no time does the story try to help us understand why she is the way she is. It is plainly and repeatedly stated in the movie that she is simply a woman who enjoys sex. Contrary to your statement in your opening paragraph that “…..and not because they actually enjoy sex at all.” Hell, her story begins with her stating that she simply demands more from the sunrise that other people.

In fact you entire criticism is full of contradictions. In a movie about a very, very narrow view of human sexual dysfunction, you say you want women to be depicted as “fully rounded human being.” There are no fully rounded human being in this movie, not a one. Why should the women be any different. Honestly you just seem to be complaining that someone said something bad about women when we all know that women are made of sugar and spice and everything nice.

Next you criticize the depiction of her first teenage sexual encounter as being “unromantic” and “purely mechanical”. What were you expecting, something out of a romance novel. Who’s being stereotypical there?

Then you criticize the point of view of the movie scenes for not being Joe’s. Which if the direct gave us the point of view of a female nymphomaniac, we’d have 4 hours of staring at cocks. Not even the average woman would go to movie just to look at cocks. That’s why there are so few male strip clubs and why playgirl magazine is mostly for gay men.

Lastly I find it amusing that you claim the story of Mrs H is so preposterous. Because we all know that women never ever do bat-shit crazy stuff while going through a divorce or rough break up. Never.

I think you real gripe with this movie is two fold. One, it cast women in a negative light (and you really only want well rounded female characters if they are all positive). Two, the idea of men being manipulated by women really bothers you. Especially sexual manipulation by women. That idea would suggest that men might not always be a fault. GASP!!

Now for a real review of this film:

The first two chapters of this series is an ode to every feminist talking point currently in vogue. An asexual beta male comes to the white knight rescue of a slut in distress. He mans up and tries to care for her. While doing so, he reassures her that all her slutty behavior is perfectly alright. It is only because of religion and the patriarchy why she feels such unnecessary guilt. In fact if she were a man, everything she did would be seen as just fine by society. Even her rejection of possessive/taming romantic love and her rejection of motherhood. Lastly, the piece de resistance, is the friend rapist. When her one true friend tries to have sex with her (because she has had sex with thousands of guys) against her newly reformed wishes , he gets what every rapist deserves, a bullet to the head.

Within 5 years, the grand council of the sisterhood will decide that this is one of the greatest movies every made, and female lemmings worldwide will try to pretend like they never said a bad word about this movie.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  jg
Mon, Mar 31, 2014 1:20am

There are no fully rounded human being in this movie, not a one.

Then what is this movie about, and why should I care?

…the grand council of the sisterhood… and female lemmings…

Boy, you’re quite the charmer, aren’t you?

jg
jg
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Tue, Apr 01, 2014 2:00am

“Then what is this movie about, and why should I care?”

Then I guess you don’t see action movies that often have less than fully rounded male heroes

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  jg
Tue, Apr 01, 2014 2:35am

But this isn’t an action movie, is it? This is a Serious Film™. So, again I ask, what is this movie about, and why should I care?

jg
jg
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Tue, Apr 01, 2014 4:09am

It might not be an action movie, but it does have quite a bit of…..”action”

RogerBW
RogerBW
reply to  jg
Tue, Apr 01, 2014 9:50am

Hey, if you want porn, why not just watch porn? I hear it’s even possible to find it on the Internet.

jg
jg
reply to  RogerBW
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 3:36pm

True, but sex without context is boring.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  jg
Thu, Apr 03, 2014 6:12pm

You don’t actually have an answer to this question.

jg
jg
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Sat, Apr 05, 2014 7:57pm

Dr. Rocketscience, this isn’t rocket science. If peeping into the life of a woman with a insatiable appetite for sex interests you, then see the movie. And other things of interest might be there as well.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  jg
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 12:08am

Still not an answer. You said yourself this isn’t about a real, multi-dimensional person. So, one last time, what is it about, then?

jg
jg
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 3:30pm

Now who is being a troll. People go to action movies for the excitement, not the multidimensional characters. People go to comedies for the laughter, not the multidimensional characters. This movie being an erotic-drama, people can go see it just as much for the eroticism and themes explores as they might for the characters. Additionally, Von tiers does wonderful things with the camera, although not as satisfying as say a Tinto Brass would. But troll on good Dr., troll on.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  jg
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 4:08pm

See, now that resembles an answer. The stuff about action movies and comedies is still entirely non sequitur, of course. But points for effort.

Now, what you’re saying is that this movie only fires on half its cylinders, and that half (as Roger points out) can be accurately described as pornography. This movie only gets away with not being called porn because, as I pointed out, it’s a Serious Film™. By a Serious Director™, no less. It’s a fantasy. A morally reprehensible fantasy, to be sure. But then a lot of pornography is morally reprehensible, even above and beyond anyone’s general objections to the entire concept of pornography.

jg
jg
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 4:33pm

“Now, what you’re saying is that this movie only fires on half its cylinders”

dramas are not solely driven by characters, but by plot as well. And the character you keep asking to be multidimensional is a -MANIAC.

“It’s a fantasy. A morally reprehensible fantasy, to be sure.”

Yes its fiction (many movies are), but nymphomaniacs, actually do exist. Part of the “other things” that the plot explores is whether this particular nymphomaniacs life is actually morally reprehensible.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Mon, Mar 31, 2014 12:26pm

Honestly you just seem to be complaining that someone said something bad about women when we all know that women are made of sugar and spice and everything nice.

Wow. You think my asking for the depictions of women as fully rounded human beings means I want “women [who] are made of sugar and spice and everything nice”?! I want precisely the opposite. I want women who are complex people, just like men get to be on screen.

Next you criticize the depiction of her first teenage sexual encounter as being “unromantic” and “purely mechanical”. What were you expecting, something out of a romance novel. Who’s being stereotypical there?

How about a hint of attraction? How about a tiny smidgen of tenderness?

I don’t read romance novels. Piles of unrealistic junk for the most part. I suspect *you* are bringing stereotypical ideas about what you think women want to my review, and are reading stuff into my words that isn’t remotely there.

Then you criticize the point of view of the movie scenes for not being Joe’s. Which if the direct gave us the point of view of a female nymphomaniac, we’d have 4 hours of staring at cocks.

You don’t know what “perspective” or “point of view” mean, do you? It’s not just visual. And even if it were, how interesting that you think you should be able to see a movie about a woman you call a slut and not have to get any appreciation of sex through her eyes.

jg
jg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Apr 01, 2014 2:25am

” I want women who are complex people, just like men get to be on screen.”

Please name any of the well rounded complex men that are in THIS film, you know, the film that you are suppose to be reviewing.

“How about a hint of attraction?”

You mean like when she talks about how much she loves his strongs hands.

“How about a tiny smidgen of tenderness?”

Because teenage boys are so well known for their tenderness.

“I don’t read romance novels. Piles of unrealistic junk for the most part.”

Unrealistic junk like expecting teenage boys to exude attractiveness and be tender capable lover? Sounds like those novels might be right up your alley after-all.

“You don’t know what “perspective” or “point of view” mean, do you? It’s not just visual.”

That was just a big mistake on my part. Its just that since you were harping on the visual of the camera angle when she is having sex with Jerome and the visual of when the girls are walking down the train corridor, I thought I could follow your lead. But as a man should have known better than to ever do that.

“how interesting that you think you should be able to see a movie about a woman you call a slut and not have to get any appreciation of sex through her eyes.”

Well if she is a hot lesbian slut banging other hot lesbian sluts then I would have great appreciation for that and would definitely want to see it through her eyes.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Tue, Apr 01, 2014 10:32am

Lesbians don’t have sex for *your* pleasure.

jg
jg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Apr 05, 2014 7:59pm

Neither do heterosexual couples, but I’ll still watch….If the chick is hot.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Sat, Apr 05, 2014 10:31pm

What on earth makes you think you’d be invited to watch?

jg
jg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 3:22pm

Well if we are taking about movies, why wouldn’t I be? If we are not talking about movies, then maybe they are just kinky like that.

jg
jg
Sun, Mar 30, 2014 7:40pm

“Here’s the thing: Joe is telling her sexual life story to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård: Thor: The Dark World, The Avengers). It’s the really long version of a story meant to explain why he found her beaten up and unconscious in an alleyway near where he lives, and why she dismisses her state of beat-into-unconsciousness as “[her] own fault” because she’s “just a bad human being.” ”

These sentences are your strongest digressions into the reality of the film. As the movie does try to tell us through her stories why SHE thinks that she is “just a bad human being” It doesn’t try to help us understand why she likes sex so much. She simply does.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Mon, Mar 31, 2014 12:27pm

She doesn’t need to justify her enjoyment of sex. But a movie about her supposed enjoyment of sex might show her actually enjoying sex.

E. Kohut
E. Kohut
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Mar 31, 2014 4:48pm

Which it does multiple times, none moreso than in an ENTIRE CHAPTER where she explores three of her different lovers and how the three of them gave her different satisfactions — and then even gives her a triumphant monologue where she rejects and indicts her self-help course for trying to make her feel bad about herself.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  E. Kohut
Mon, Mar 31, 2014 9:45pm

There’s no sense of pleasure in this movie at all, least of all when Joe is *talking* about pleasure. Why don’t we see it? Why is the only time we come *close* to seeing it is when Joe is being beaten, and no sex is involved?

jg
jg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Apr 01, 2014 2:01am

I could point to numerous instances in the film, but you seem determined to pretend that they don’t exist, so I won’t bother.

E. Kohut
E. Kohut
reply to  jg
Tue, Apr 01, 2014 2:40pm

“I could point to numerous instances in the film, but you seem determined to pretend that they don’t exist”

Exactly.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Tue, Apr 01, 2014 7:19pm

We must have different ideas as to what constitutes pleasure.

jg
jg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 3:44pm

Or you’re just being stubborn.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  jg
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 3:53pm

Reading this reply tells me that there is no reason to your question to me. There is, you see, always the context to take into account.

jg
jg
reply to  LaSargenta
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 4:05pm

Que?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 5:41pm

I am limited by what stills are available and then which are visually interesting on the page.

That said, what is wrong with the image I used? Does it misrepresent the film? Which image do you think I should have used, and why? And are you complaining to all the other review outlets that have run this image?

jg
jg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 10:45pm

I have no quarrel with the image you chose. Simply that considering the brevity of that scene and the very small roles of the male characters (although certain body parts of the males did loom large) it just seemed an interesting choice. Perhaps giving some insight into your “different ideas as to what constitutes pleasure.”

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Mon, Apr 07, 2014 1:04am

I’m afraid you’re going to have to spell out your implication here, because I’m not getting it.

jg
jg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Apr 07, 2014 11:55am

Just trolling :)

E. Kohut
E. Kohut
Mon, Mar 31, 2014 4:44pm

“I suspect that von Trier believes that Nymphomaniac is him talking to a woman (one invented in his head, but still) and asking her just why she’s just such an awful person.”

And yet he spends the whole film defending her, and even ends the film with this monologue, explaining how no one would give a shit if she had done all the same things and were a man:
“You as a woman — you had to take on a burden of guilt that
could never be alleviated. And all and all, all the blame and guilt that
piled up over the years became too much for you, and you reacted
aggressively; almost like a man, I have to say. And you fought back. You
fought back against a gender that had been oppressing and mutilating
and killing you and billions of women.”

But I guess you conveniently ignored all of that, and then ignored the fact that the only male friend she ever makes then tries to rape her, and she kills him in self-defense. Wow, such misogyny going on here, and such an embrace of men!

The plight of women is what many of Lars von Trier’s films have been about, and had you been paying attention instead of clutching your pearls so tight they probably made your fist bleed, you would have picked up that this film is actually his feminist explanation of all his other films — large sections of Nymphomaniac are actually recreations of scenes from Antichrist (a film that is actually about how misogyny is the ultimate expression of Nature’s evil, and ends with wife-murderer Willem Dafoe being literally swarmed by a horde of female ghosts representative of the “billions of women” oppressed, mutilated and killed by men, as explained in this film), Melancholia, The Idiots, etc. You actually seem to have picked up on this when you reviewed Dogville years ago, but somehow in the last decade it seems to have eluded you the more Lars dives into black comedy (which is what this film also is for long stretches). The character of Joe is also a stand-in for Von Trier himself — the little club she forms for rejecting love is his Dogme 95 club, the alienation and despair she has felt since childhood is all taken from Von Trier’s life, etc. She constantly is espousing his own worldview and defense of himself and his art, which has been incorrectly labeled “misogynistic” when he is actually exploring the idea of misogyny in society without any schmaltzy handholding bullshit. As Joe says in the film, “I hate false sentiment”.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  E. Kohut
Mon, Mar 31, 2014 9:49pm

I have no false sentiment. And I certainly do not say or imply anywhere here anything like “an embrace of men.”

And we *should* criticize a man who behaves the way Joe behaves here! Not for wanting to have sex and liking having sex — though, as I’ve said, there is no pleasure in this film at all — but for manipulating people and being generally awful.

Saying this movie is a defense of women is like saying that Mr Creosote offers an appreciation of food.

jg
jg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Apr 01, 2014 2:54am

“Saying this movie is a defense of women is like saying that Mr Creosote offers an appreciation of food.”

The one mistake that Von Trier made is that he might have let the cat out of the bag when it comes to female power over men. That’s what gets the panties of the sisterhood all in bunch. He is ruining their hustle. If the world finds out that women have power then how can women say that they don’t any? What’s worse, how can they keep asking for more? He is almost as bad as the Dr. Warren Farrell guy.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  jg
Tue, Apr 01, 2014 3:12am

Okay. You started out discussing the movie, now this has just gone over the cliff. The review is talking about specific individual characters as creations of a specific person; you are trying to tie this into a bizarre sweeping generalization of some imagined “plot” of everyone with two x-chromosomes. Give it a rest.

jg
jg
reply to  LaSargenta
Wed, Apr 02, 2014 12:22am

The tie-in is about trying to come up with an explanation for a blatantly inaccurate review. This is a completely feminist movie except in one small area (well actually two, because female characters aren’t suppose to be too negative). It is that area which Ms Johanson finds “reprehensible”, and which I try to elaborate on in the above comment.

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  jg
Wed, Apr 02, 2014 2:45am

Let me see if I can sum up your view of the world:

* Women consistently manipulate men, especially through sex.

* Feminists try to cover this up by pretending to be powerless.

* Feminists also want to eliminate any movie that shows women as less than perfect.

* The only reason a woman might have for not liking a movie you enjoyed is that she’s blinded by a feminist agenda. It isn’t possible that her taste is different than yours, or that there’s more than one way to interpret the movie.

You seem to think that’s a realistic view of the world. Other people might say that you’re paranoid, sexist, close-minded, and like to make bizarre and sweeping generalizations. But those people are probably feminists.

jg
jg
reply to  Danielm80
Wed, Apr 02, 2014 3:20am

* Women consistently manipulate men, especially through sex.

Not necessarily consistently, but they can and they do.

* Feminists try to cover this up by pretending to be powerless.

Not necessarily any organized cover up, but they do pretend to be powerless or lack agency.

* Feminists also want to eliminate any movie that shows women as less than perfect.

Not eliminate, just dislike if it’s too negative.

* The only reason a woman might have for not liking a movie you enjoyed is that she’s blinded by a feminist agenda. It isn’t possible that her taste is different than yours, or that there’s more than one way to interpret the movie.

We can disagree on taste, but not the facts. And different interpretations are fine if they are ground in facts, otherwise that’s just good ole fashion lying.

“You seem to think that’s a realistic view of the world. Other people might say that you’re paranoid, sexist, close-minded, and like to make bizarre and sweeping generalizations.”

And yet, still truthful

“But those people are probably feminists.”

Yes.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Wed, Apr 02, 2014 10:46am

Not necessarily any organized cover up, but they do pretend to be powerless or lack agency.

Please stop talking about things you know nothing about. Feminists think women shouldn’t have *only* a *limited* power that comes via men.

If you want women to stop appreciating men only for their money and power, then you sure as hell had better make sure women can acquire power and status in other ways.

jg
jg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, Apr 03, 2014 12:41am

“Please stop talking about things you know nothing about.”

No.

“Feminists think women shouldn’t have *only* a *limited* power that comes via men”

Actually its not that limited, its just happens to be more influential than direct.

“If you want women to stop appreciating men only for their money and power…”

They won’t. Even most modern successful women tend to want to marry successful powerful men. In fact many would rather be alone than “settle.” Its probably biological.

“…then you sure as hell had better make sure women can acquire power and status in other ways.”

No. That’s actually the main problem with feminism, liberalism, socialism, marxism. We as a group should not make sure that particualar individual(s) acquire a certain outcome or status. They should, for the most part, earn it themselves.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Thu, Apr 03, 2014 10:12am

And you think a woman acquiring power and status via her sexual attractiveness to men is “earning it herself”?

jg
jg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Apr 05, 2014 7:54pm

Yes and No. Technically yes, just because you don’t approve doesn’t make it any less valid. No, because I was really commenting on the “you better make sure” part of your statement. Women can gain power and status without sexual attractiveness, but I don’t think we as a society should “make sure of it.” And not “making sure” goes for everyone else too.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  jg
Sat, Apr 05, 2014 10:05pm

The way I read her “better make sure” part of the response was as much shorter and less unwieldy version of better make sure that women as a whole are not relegated to only having value to those who actually are the gatekeepers (deciding who gets to go to school/college, decides what subjects are fit for them to learn, who gets hired, who gets treated like what) as madonnas/whores/hausfrauen.

So, I saw it as a removal of controls…in my dreams that would be heading to a best-person-for-the-task Erehwon (specifically using that word) as opposed to the we-get-to-hire-the-probably-good-enough-person-who-looks-and-thinks-pretty-much-like-me world that we’ve mostly had for many centuries.

I gather you see it as an imposition of controls. Oh, well. Just goes to show how different the view is depending on how one got to the overlook.

jg
jg
reply to  LaSargenta
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 3:18pm

If that’s the case, then we would be in agreement. However, ask yourself honestly, is that what feminism has been doing for the last 50 years?

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  jg
Thu, Apr 03, 2014 1:56pm

There are studies indicating that most women don’t prefer successful, powerful men. See these links:

http://www.elainehatfield.com/97.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypergamy

jg
jg
reply to  Danielm80
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 3:35pm

Your links contradict your comment.

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  jg
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 4:11pm

In what way?

jg
jg
reply to  Danielm80
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 4:35pm

You say the studies say that women DON’T prefer successful, powerful men, The links themselves say that they DO.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 5:38pm

Whatever studies say, they’re still looking at a world in which feminism is new, women are still not given equal opportunity and access, and “success” is counted differently for men and women.

jg
jg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Apr 07, 2014 12:17am

“Whatever studies say, they’re still looking at a world in which feminism is new”

until they say what you want them to say I assume.

“women are still not given equal opportunity and access,”

Not true in western societies

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Mon, Apr 07, 2014 1:01am

Yes true in western societies.

jg
jg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Apr 07, 2014 11:55am

All the women in the feminist stalwart scandinavian countries would disagree. As would the all women in America who are out-pacing men in university attendance and graduation. Oh wait, actually they wouldn’t disagree. They would just keep complain like you do, and all women are wont to do.

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  jg
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 5:39pm

No, the studies certainly don’t say that women prefer successful, powerful men. They say that success and power are among the many qualities that some women find attractive–and they’re not nearly at the top of the list. They’re not the main deciding factor. Some women like powerful men, in the same way some women like men who play the guitar or cook really well or are Benedict Cumberbatch. But not every woman marries a guitar player.

And none of the above comes anywhere close to proving your thesis that women appreciate men only–or even primarily–for their money and power.

jg
jg
reply to  Danielm80
Mon, Apr 07, 2014 12:13am

link 1
“In all cultures, women rated intelligence; ambition; potential for success; money, status and position; kindness and understanding; and expressiveness and openness as more important than men did.”

link 2
“Studies of heterosexual mate selection in dozens of countries around the world have found men and women report prioritizing different traits when it comes to choosing a mate, with men tending to prefer women who are young and attractive and women tending to prefer men who are well-educated, ambitious, and attractive.

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  jg
Mon, Apr 07, 2014 1:13am

Yes, you’ve proved that if you take quotes out of context, you can misrepresent the findings. You suggested that women appreciate men only for their money and power. The studies show that those qualities are actually ranked pretty low among desirable traits.

jg
jg
reply to  Danielm80
Mon, Apr 07, 2014 11:44am

Since my quotes are wrong, why don’t you provide the correct quotes that prove your point.?

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  jg
Mon, Apr 07, 2014 1:05pm

The Hatfield study asked women about twelve traits they considered desirable in a partner. “Kind and understanding” and “Has sense of humor” were at the top of the list. “Shows potential for success” and “Money, status, and position” were number ten and number eleven, respectively, right near the bottom of the list.

jg
jg
reply to  Danielm80
Thu, Apr 10, 2014 12:46am

The traits are listed in the quote I used. The expert researchers themselves, listed those traits last in their conclusion. That is where my quote is from. Despite what the women may have said, the researchers for some reason represented it differently. Maybe they just understand the simple truth about women that you don’t pay attention to what they say, you pay attention to what they do.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  jg
Thu, Apr 03, 2014 6:14pm

Please stop talking about things you know nothing about.”

No.

And this is the moment jg outed itself as a troll. I think we’re done here.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Thu, Apr 03, 2014 6:52pm

Boy, you’re patient. I was ready to declare that at the comment above about “he is ruining their hustle”.

jg
jg
reply to  LaSargenta
Sat, Apr 05, 2014 7:49pm

I too must highly commend our hostesses. It usually the norm to silence dissent opinions, in particular anti-feminist opinions.

jg
jg
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Sat, Apr 05, 2014 8:03pm

Trolls post things mainly to rustle your jimmies. I am giving my honest, albeit unpopular, opinions. Because of my tone, you might be confusing me being a bit of a dick, for me being a troll.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  jg
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 12:05am

The thing about “unpopular opinions”: 9-out-of-10 times they’re archaic bullshit, and the person espousing them are inveterate assholes. You’re not bucking the odds, skippy.

Still doesn’t make you less of a troll.

jg
jg
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 3:40pm

“The thing about “unpopular opinions”: 9-out-of-10 times they’re archaic bullshit, and the person espousing them an inveterate asshole. ”

But that still doen’t make them or the person false.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  jg
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 3:59pm

Actually, “false” is pretty strongly implied in “archaic bullshit”. Nice try, though.

jg
jg
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Sun, Apr 06, 2014 10:36pm

implied (but not substantiated) by you, which isn’t necessarily saying much. Its just one person’s opinion and we all know everyone has one.

E. Kohut
E. Kohut
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Apr 01, 2014 2:38pm

Except that the point is that nothing Joe does is really horrible — WHAT does she do that’s so horrible? Von Trier devotes an ENTIRE MONOLOGUE at the end to explaining that nothing she has done is actually really bad, and that all the guilt she feels is forced on her by society because she’s a woman and supposed to feel like a bad human being simply for having agency and a will of her own. She takes a guys load that he was saving for his wife — big deal, as Seligman then says holding in a load that long can lead to damaged sperm anyway, and it’s not like men don’t make more. One of her lovers abandons his wife and family without any shame for her, but that’s also not her fault — she didn’t know he’d do something so ridiculous. And when she “abandons” her husband and child? It’s because her husband makes a grossly unfair ultimatum to TAKE HER CHILD AWAY to have control over her, and she refuses to submit. And then who dumps the kid into foster care? Her husband. Who continues to care and take responsibility and put 1,000 pounds into the kid’s account ever month? She does. And when she gets the chance to shoot her wretched ex-husband in the head at point blank range, what does she do? Spares him. Sure, she’s not likeable all the time and makes mistakes, but to say that the film is condemning her instead of painting a very compassionate portrait of a flawed person pushed to the fringes of society and suffering mightily (the scene where she meets her “tree”, fighting against the wind on a lonely cliff, is pretty powerful) is willfully skewing things.

If *you’re* the one actively trying to shame her and paint her as a terrible human being, the real misogynist here isn’t Von Trier, it’s you.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  E. Kohut
Tue, Apr 01, 2014 7:17pm

I think being as manipulative and as predatory as she is is pretty reprehensible (and I think that’s true of men, too). As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s not like she’s actually enjoying the sex per se, but the power.

It’s plain in the film that she is NOT going to run away with the guy with the crazy wife (who is crazy because she is abusive to her sons), because her next lover for the evening shows up at her place!

What else? Ah, she leaves her infant child alone at home because she can’t get a babysitter and she doesn’t want to miss her appointment to get beaten up by Jamie Bell. That’s inexcusable.

I’m not sure I do say that the film condemns her. And I don’t think it *should* condemn her. But she’s an deeply unlikeable person to spend four hours with, and for no reward at the end.

If Von Trier wanted to make a movie about a woman who enjoys sex, he should have made a movie about a women who enjoys sex.

jg
jg
reply to  E. Kohut
Wed, Apr 02, 2014 12:02am

Amen!

I really don’t know what movie Ms. Johanson watched.

Sean H
Sean H
Mon, Apr 07, 2014 5:23am

Have you seen the second volume, Maryann? It’s not there in Vol. I, but it would be hard to conclude that Vol. II is not an explicitly feminist film. Just wondering if you’ve seen both parts. And to quibble with the last line of your review – I would both disagree and amplify. Not only are women “weird and strange and unknowable,” all other people are. You can’t get outside your own head, your own perception. No one ever really knows anyone.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Sean H
Mon, Apr 07, 2014 11:50am

Yes, I’ve seen both parts: I though that was clear here. And still, I concluded that the film is not feminist.

Not only are women “weird and strange and unknowable,” all other people are.

And yet, movies rarely act like this is the case with men.

jg
jg
reply to  Sean H
Mon, Apr 07, 2014 1:05pm

“Not only are women “weird and strange and unknowable,” all other people are.”

No, just women. This movie review is a perfect example. The rational male mind see what is unmistakably obvious in the movie, while the girlie mind……not so much.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Tue, Apr 08, 2014 1:22am

“Girlie mind”? I’m not rational?

This is bordering on abusive. Quit it. Or go talk about this movie elsewhere.

jg
jg
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, Apr 10, 2014 12:52am

Abusive? Give me a break. Hard teasing or rude maybe I’m guilty. At this rate if a man farts next to a woman he might get charged for being abusive to her olfactory senses. That statement is as much a feminist cliche as some of the themes in Nymphomaniac.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Thu, Apr 10, 2014 11:03am

Accusing women of being irrational has long been a ploy of men who don’t want to deal with what women are saying.

jg
jg
Thu, Apr 10, 2014 12:57am

I would like to thank our hostess for the tea and crumpets and the lively chat, but I must be off. I bid you all a fond farewell.

p.s. MaryJo, I hope one day you get to live out your favorite scene from the movie, if you haven’t already. :-)

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  jg
Thu, Apr 10, 2014 1:37am

I have no favorite scenes in this movie.

bronxbee
reply to  jg
Thu, Apr 10, 2014 4:38am

so, let’s see, you’ve been hanging around, agitating and trolling for more than 10 days and you still manage to call your hostess by the wrong name. i hope you really are off and gone.

art
art
Sat, Nov 22, 2014 9:59am

Kind of late but just saw the movie. Consider this: the whole movie as an attempt to prevent us from seeing Joe as a sexual object. The lack of sensuality, emotionality, passion, eroticism, etc would then be the point. The representations of women as sexual beings always entails eroticism – a certain veil of mystery, an idealized image. Joe, in this case, is not meant to represent; she’s supposed to represent the struggle of breaking out from the logic of representation (I think a reference to Sade and his repetitive acts of degradation which attempted, a bit simplistically speaking, the same thing). The fact that Joe is largely still seen as a representation of “a woman”, a signified extremely vague rendered rather precise by contemporary film, could be seen as a failure on Trier’s part. And this is how the film plays out, leading to failure: Seligman cannot help but consider Joe through the lens of the “image of a woman”. And, this being a movie, the representational genre par excellence, Trier is, of course, doomed to failure as well. A movie cannot not represent …

art
art
reply to  art
Sat, Nov 22, 2014 10:17am

In short, a movie not about people but about movies and their representational logic. (and considering the publicity campaign: real sex, real actors, etc, which promised the “ultimate erotica”, and to which the actual film opposes rather violently, also about the para- and metatexts surrounding the movies.)

Timothy Griffy
Wed, May 04, 2016 3:25am

Thank you! You seem to be the only reviewer who caught the deeply misogynistic nature of this movie. I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one.

Krzysztof Żelechowski
Krzysztof Żelechowski
Sun, Nov 26, 2017 9:45pm

The defloration is 3+5, not 5+3.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Krzysztof Żelechowski
Wed, Nov 29, 2017 3:03pm

Well, that changes *everything*!

Krzysztof Żelechowski
Krzysztof Żelechowski
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Fri, Dec 15, 2017 10:38pm

Not everything, just the credibility of your account. I was looking for an objective evaluation, you were too disgusted to remember basic facts.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Krzysztof Żelechowski
Mon, Dec 18, 2017 9:27pm

And *how,* precisely, does this change anything? C’mon, tell me.

And *where,* precisely, do you find “objective” criticism of anything, much less the arts?

Krzysztof Żelechowski
Krzysztof Żelechowski
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Wed, Dec 20, 2017 7:49pm

Scientific publications about culture are more objective sometimes. What changes is that I have to look elsewhere.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Krzysztof Żelechowski
Wed, Dec 20, 2017 10:19pm

Dude, this is not a scientific publication.

Are you able to explain how “The defloration is 3+5, not 5+3” makes THE TINIEST BIT OF DIFFERENCE TO MY ANALYSIS OF THE MOVIE? Or do you just like perving out to that scene that you’ve seen it so many times you’ve memorized it? Would you like to share ANY OPINION AT ALL about the movie?

Krzysztof Żelechowski
Krzysztof Żelechowski
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 6:15am

The difference is that your analysis is based on wrong data. FYI, I watched it once.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Krzysztof Żelechowski
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 11:14am

Your insistence on returning to this over months and months is truly disgusting.

ColleenSalinger2500
ColleenSalinger2500
Sun, Aug 16, 2020 4:10pm

Which of Lars Von Trier’s films have you seen and did you hate them all?

efebrahim
efebrahim
Thu, Feb 11, 2021 9:55pm

thank u for this. this movie is the antithesis of movies like mysterious skin, who snubs the eyes of evil at every turn. i only ever saw a few scenes of thi s and the awful perspective made me cry. thank u for the confidence in men u show in ur view. many of my problems ive had in past relationships stem from this idea about men, that we are barely composed machines of sex and violence. im glad u dont subscribe to it, but, u know, i knew that. having read ur shit on and off since, i believe, 1998. this, right here, is why u mean so much to me.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  efebrahim
Sun, Feb 14, 2021 10:54am

Very kind. Thank you.