“Which way do you think you’ll get the most out of my story — believing me or not believing me?” asks the central character in writer-director Lars von Trier’s new film. She’s an emotionally broken, physically beaten sex addict recounting her life less ordinary to an ascetic bachelor with a passion for fly-fishing, but the words might as well be from the filmmaker himself. In Nymphomaniac: Volume I, he’s inviting viewers to come along on a lurid trip, to submit to a survey of longing (emotional as much as sexual) threaded with intellectual riffs big and small, and allusions to dozens of other works.
Despite almost three decades of work in the feature realm as a provocateur of the highest order, von Trier has somehow avoided having his surname turned into an adjective, unlike a number of fellow outlier auteurs. But most of his films have achieved a unique synthesis of the philosophical and confrontational, the clinical and compassionate. In this regard, Nymphomaniac: Volume I is no different. A rigorous and riveting cogitation on sexual liberation, gender double standards, love, lust, sociopathy and any number of the filmmaker’s other obsessions, it’s a personal work that touches upon universal themes and ideas in a way that is inescapably… von Trier-ian? For the full, original review, from Paste, click here. (Magnolia, unrated, 110 minutes)