It is probably no exaggeration to state that Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac" is, from an international point of view, the most highly anticipated Danish film of the year. Zentropa's promotional campaign leading up to the film's opening in Denmark on Christmas Day has only added to the buzz.
According to the first round of international reviews, reactions are generally positive to von Trier's four-hour, two-part opus about the self-proclaimed nymphomaniac Joe, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg and newcomer Stacy Martin (as Joe in her early years) who tells her story to the intellectual bachelor, Seligman, played by Stellan Skarsgård.
"Nymphomaniac " opens in Denmark and Spain on 25 December and will premiere in the UK on 7 March and in numerous other European countries over the next few months. In the US, the film's two volumes are released separately: Volume 1 is launched on VOD on 6 March and in theatres on 21 March, while Volume 2 comes out on VOD on 3 April and hits the big screens on 18 April.
Read summaries of the international reviews:
"It is perplexing, preposterous and utterly fascinating; a false bill of goods in that it's a film about sex that is deliberately unsexy and a long, garrulous story that largely talks to itself. Those naked figures in motion are just a distraction. To blunder in on 'Nymphomaniac' is to catch the sight of a middle-aged Dane masturbating alone in a darkened room. It may be sensational, it might even be art. But I'm not sure it is intended for public consumption."
"How was it for you? How was it for me? 'Nymphomaniac' doesn't care. It goes about things its own way, in the service of its own pleasure, manhandling the audience from one position to the next, occasionally snickering at its own private jokes and daring us to decipher them."
"Personally I found this a bruising, gruelling experience and yet the film has stayed with me. It is so laden with highly charged set pieces, so dappled with haunting ideas and bold flights of fancy that it finally achieves a kind of slow-burn transcendence. 'Nymphomaniac' annoys me, repels me, and I think I might love it. It's an abusive relationship; I need to see it again."
The Hollywood Reporter
"It is never boring and does provoke and stimulate, although not as a turn-on, not remotely. At its core the film represents an intellectual male artist's arduous, wayward, idiocentric, blunt, naughty-boy attempt to address Freud's famous question: 'What does a woman want?'"
"The cutting style and use of music are unmistakably those of the filmmaker. Nor does one go away hungry; this smorgasbord of talk and sex constitutes a very full meal."
"'Nymphomaniac' is indeed a major work that tries and, to a large extent, succeeds to organically synthesize the world, ideas and filmmaking savvy of von Trier in one sprawling and ambitious cinematic fable."
"After two earlier films with von Trier, 'Antichrist' and 'Melancholia,' this third collaboration represents Charlotte Gainsbourg's most fearless and also finest hour as she carries the film with ease. To say her character isn't easy to love would be an understatement, but Gainsbourg manages to turn Joe into more than just a mouthpiece of von Trier's ideas. She's a living, breathing human being who perhaps lacks the intellectual understanding to analyze what she's doing or why she's doing it – but whose will to live makes her forge ahead no matter what."
Little White Lies
"Forget the headline-grabbing sexploitation-based marketing images that have been gleefully circulated online. The slimline version (two times two-hour volumes instead of the director's preferred five-and-a-half hour cut) of Lars von Trier's digressive, character-driven odyssey may show a lot of naked fun times, but it is more deeply concerned with loneliness, self-loathing and what becomes of a person whose behaviour takes them beyond the limits of polite society."
"The film is not a perfect work (...), but the successful sequences are so rich in thought-provoking representations of big subjects and so distinctively the work of its singular and taboo-flouting director that it all makes for essential viewing."
"With a certain amount of self-aware glee [Lars von Trier] sets out to provoke, shock, challenge, amuse and possibly even annoy audiences with his two-part epic 'Nymphomaniac,' a film that revels in its title and subject matter as it blends full-on sexual acts with serious-minded naval-gazing and comes up with a film that will test viewers in many different ways."
"Because there is so much going on (...) it is almost impossible to take a broad view of 'Nymphomaniac.' Yes it is provocative, funny, smart, wry and challenging (though never sexy) but it is also a remarkable project brimming with bold and often thoughtful performances. It is Lars von Trier at his best and his most frustrating at the same time, but is always watchable and intriguing."
"It's easily von Trier’s funniest picture since 'The Idiots'."
"It's typical of von Trier to turn erotics into maths and vice versa, but wait until you see how the Fibonacci business pays off, and what it has to do with Bach's organ music, and why both help to explain Joe's seemingly unquenchable longing for multiple partners."
"Chaotic and not especially pretty, the film has more of the punkish, radical spirit of Von Trier's 'The Idiots' or 'Dogville' than the gloss or contained drama of 'Melancholia' or 'Antichrist' – although the nominal British setting and interest in religion and a promiscuous woman nod to 'Breaking the Waves' too."
"Enormous penises flash across the screen; tragedy sits next to comedy. It feels like an X-rated farce, a circus of genitalia.""
[The films displays] "a sort of narrative playfulness that keeps you close and keeps you guessing – even if it also stops Von Trier from doing anything as conservative or reassuring as offering a clear opinion or coherent perspective via his teasing scrapbook of sexual adventure."
"World cinema's enfant terrible Lars von Trier re-emerges as its dirty-old-man terrible, delivering a dense, career-encompassing work designed to shock, provoke and ultimately enlighten a public he considers altogether too prudish."
"The film provides a good-humored yet serious-minded look at sexual self-liberation, thick with references to art, music, religion and literature, even as it pushes the envelope with footage of acts previously relegated to the sphere of pornography."