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Nymphomaniac: Volume I (2014)

tomatometer

76

Average Rating: 6.9/10
Reviews Counted: 168
Fresh: 128 | Rotten: 40

Darkly funny, fearlessly bold, and thoroughly indulgent, Nymphomaniac finds Lars von Trier provoking viewers with customary abandon.

71

Average Rating: 6.2/10
Critic Reviews: 38
Fresh: 27 | Rotten: 11

Darkly funny, fearlessly bold, and thoroughly indulgent, Nymphomaniac finds Lars von Trier provoking viewers with customary abandon.

audience

77

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 10,395

My Rating

Movie Info

NYMPHOMANIAC: VOLUME I is the story of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac who is discovered badly beaten in an alley by an older bachelor, Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), who takes her into his home. As he tends to her wounds, she recounts the erotic story of her adolescence and young-adulthood (portrayed in flashback by newcomer Stacy Martin). (c) Magnolia

Unrated,

Art House & International, Drama

Lars von Trier

$0.6M

Magnolia Pictures - Official Site External Icon

Cast

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All Critics (168) | Top Critics (38) | Fresh (128) | Rotten (40)

"Nymphomaniac: Vol I" is crazy. It's funny, it's lewd, it's disturbing, it's odd, it's extremely graphic, it's brutal. And if you can handle all that, it's pretty good.

April 4, 2014 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Without an explanation for the protagonist's physical and emotional injuries, it's a head-scratcher. As with Joe's sexual compulsion, scratching can't cure the itch.

April 3, 2014 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Lars von Trier is funny. Who knew? That's certainly the most startling revelation to come from Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 .

March 26, 2014 Full Review Source: ChristyLemire.com
ChristyLemire.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A pornographic work of art-obsessive, repetitive, at times remarkably eccentric, but never simple-minded or dull.

March 24, 2014 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The most shocking thing about the film is that it often prompts laughs.

March 23, 2014 Full Review Source: NPR
NPR
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Think of Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 as the first half of a longer tale which, if von Trier has taught us anything, will grow infinitely darker and more harrowing.

March 22, 2014 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I used to be able to count on Lars von Trier to deliver my necessary doses of nihilism, but no more.

April 18, 2014 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

Nymphomaniac is convincing as a work of philosophical seriousness.

April 17, 2014 Full Review Source: Grantland
Grantland

As pretentious and provocative as he is personally invested, von Trier remains an attention-seeking eccentric who might be seeking a kind of agonized attempt at atonement. Or maybe he's once again laughing derisively at his audience and critics.

April 16, 2014 Full Review Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

I freely confess to having been ravished by Volume I.

April 16, 2014 Full Review Source: The Nation
The Nation

Nymphomaniac's clunkiness and desperation to shock could be forgiven if it wasn't so uniformly dull. With a talent such as Lars, it really is unforgivable.

April 16, 2014 Full Review Source: The Skinny
The Skinny

Aside from the outrageous format, this film offers several powerful performances and sheds light on a subject that needs it.

April 15, 2014 Full Review Source: It's Just Movies
It's Just Movies

Blistering, honest, angry and full of confronting ideas this epic sexual odyssey...from Lars von Trier again proves that he is a much more intelligent, thoughtful and genuinely controversial filmmaker than his roguish public image would otherwise suggest.

April 11, 2014 Full Review Source: 3AW

If 'provocauteur' isn't a word, it ought to be, at least in reference to von Trier...

April 11, 2014 Full Review Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

Dedicated cinephiles who feel an obligation to see what von Trier has wrought are unlikely to reach consensus on whether he is an exploitative provocateur or crusading pamphleteer.

April 10, 2014 Full Review Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Lars von Trier is that he still can surprise us.

April 9, 2014 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Martin and Gainsbourg are both gentle yet unyielding presences, and Skarsgård offers weary tenderness and many dashes of battiness. It's an essay film, really, with very funny moments.

April 4, 2014 Full Review Source: Newcity
Newcity

The closest any real movie has ever gotten to Seinfeld's "Rochelle, Rochelle"

April 4, 2014 Full Review Source: EntertainmentTell
EntertainmentTell

Beneath the sheen of sweat on his actors and between the frequent scenes of frantic and entangled limbs, there's substance to Von Trier's tale.

April 4, 2014 Full Review Source: Times-Picayune
Times-Picayune

I have found something to like in all of Von Trier's films...except this one. I don't really like anything in this movie. It's lazy, boring, pretentious filmmaking at its worst. I hope Part II validates the painful slog of Part 1.

April 2, 2014 Full Review Source: Tucson Weekly
Tucson Weekly

It's episodic, vague and self-indulgent (perhaps pretentious?) but there's no denying that it's also original, committed and borne of a highly determined voice.

March 31, 2014 Full Review Source: ABC Radio (Australia)
ABC Radio (Australia)

Nymphomania is not all it's cracked up to be.

March 29, 2014 Full Review Source: tonymacklin.net
tonymacklin.net

Whether One or Two of this cinema interruptus teaser is more an ordeal in a perhaps closet biopic, is a tossup. And with Trier very possibly in surrogate self-psychoanalysis mode, don't be surprised if his shrink puts in a bid for a screenwriting credit.

March 28, 2014 Full Review Source: Critical Women
Critical Women

If you are just horny? Skip the context and go to Mr Skin.com. But if you consider yourself a cineaste with an interest in cinema's reining enfant terrible, you must check out Nymphomaniac.

March 27, 2014 Full Review Source: The Aristocrat
The Aristocrat

Audience Reviews for Nymphomaniac: Volume I

Probably the best film of decade until now. Lars Von Trier's bold great film with dark humour, fantastic direction, screenplay, editon, soundtrack and several courageous actings make Nymphomanic: Volume 1, an unforgetable movie that is not for many. Different of a lot of people are thinking, this is not a porno is a true piece of art film. Fresh.
April 18, 2014
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

A dreadful bore.
March 31, 2014
Bill D 2007
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

When provocateur Lars von Trier released the magnificent "Dogville" in 2003 and followed it up with "Manderlay" in 2005, I was very eager to see him complete his USA: Land of Opportunities trilogy. Unfortunately, the third instalment "Wasington" never came to fruition. He did, however, venture into another trilogy - focusing on depression. The gruelling and unforgettable "AntiChrist" was the first, followed by the restrained and meditative "Melancholia". Now, von Trier completes this outstanding trilogy in style.

Volume I: Joe (Charlotte Gainbourg) is found in an alleyway by a compassionate man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård). She is badly beaten so Seligman takes her back to his home to nurse her. It here that Joe proceeds to tell him her life story of being a self-confessed nymphomaniac and the encounters she has had during her adolescence.

Volume II: Joe's story of sexual exploration grows darker as she recounts her erotic adult experiences of group sex and bondage and how she found herself in the alleyway where the A-sexual, scholar Seligman found her.

Von Trier is certainly no stranger to quoting controversy. Throughout his whole directing career he has always managed to raise a few eyebrows and invite some vitriolic hatred towards his films. Personally, I regard him as one of the most important and visionary directors that we've ever had. I admire his unflinching approach to taboo subject matters as well as his intelligence in tackling such endeavours. He, admittedly, can be shocking but there's always a level of intelligence to his films that far out way any of the gratuity that he's proclaimed to deliver. "Nymphomaniac" is no different and it's definitely a film to masticate over. Yes, I said masticate... That's just your dirty minds taking hold already.

As you will have noticed, this is a review that encompasses both volumes in their entirety. The film is one complete story and being released in two parts, only strikes me that audiences wouldn't have been fully prepared for a 4 hour sitting (although the Director's Cut would be even more of a challenge as it runs for a full 5 1/2 hours).

Say what you will about von Trier and his movies but there really isn't anyone else at the moment that's tackling the matters that he does. As a society we often avoid uncomfortable subject matters or issues but if we fully explore the artform of film and how it can help us cathart or explore our innermost desires or fears then von Trier is certainly at the forefront of doing so. His films are, by no means, for those of a sensitive or prudish nature but for those willing to delve into the depths of human psyche or behaviour this man really shows no bounds. I, for one, applaud his unrepentant boldness and audacity.

The numerous claims that this is just a self-indulgent porn film are sorely mistaken. This is, in fact, so much more than that. It's an odyssey of self discovery and nihilistic sexual exploration, laid out in eight novelistic chapters (which also reflect Fibonacci numbers and the amount of times our protagonist was penetrated when she lost her virginity) and incorporates everything from masturbation, a montage of penises, the use of a Nymph in fly-fishing, Johan Sebastien Bach's polyphonic harmonies and the use of the Prusik knot in bondage. If that's not enough to wet a voracious vulva, then an education in "the silent duck" may just do the trick. But (as the tag line says) "Forget about love". Love, we are informed, is "just lust with jealousy added".

Von Trier doesn't mince his words here and he rarely skips a beat. There are shades of the sexual promiscuity that he covered so well in "Breaking The Waves" and a similar, playful humorousness that he delivered in "The Idiots" - where he also had porn actors engage in genuine scenes of intercourse. Speaking of which, the intercourse scenes here are seamlessly and impressively handled with CGI and it's difficult to tell where the porn actors start and the dramatic actors end. It's quite an achievement and it's during these scenes that some will view the film as exploitative or mere titillation but there's a truth and depth to von Trier's ambitions. He questions the intrinsic polarity of how a form of sexual-liberation can also be empty and soulless and he explores how science and religion form the constructs of how we behave socially.

Of course, a certain willingness to go along with von Trier's philosophical ramblings is required and that's where his cast pay him dividends. It's through the commitment and bravery of his ensemble that he's able to realise his vision and few, if any, let him down; Charlotte Gainsbourg (who has appeared in the complete trilogy), once again, shows a fundamental courageousness and Stellan Skarsgård (another of von Trier's most reliable regulars) anchor the film with their naturalistic approaches. Solid support also comes from Jamie Bell as a sadomasochist and the American contingent of Willem Dafoe, Christian Slater and Shia LeBeouf (despite a very questionable accent) deliver good work. From that assemblage, though, it's Uma Thurman who really shines as a scorned wife and mother. In one of the films most memorable scenes, she gate-crashes the house of her husband's mistress asking to show her children the "whoring bed", which their father has found so sacred. The biggest revelation, however, is newcomer Stacy Martin who fearlessly tackles her extremely difficult role with as much professionalism as an actress twice her age. Von Trier has unearthed a talent in this young actress and I'd be very surprised if we don't see more of her in the future.

Quite simply, this a work of outstanding quality and substance and von Trier has opened up a whole new can of possibilities. He's somehow managed to cross the boundary between pornography and mainstream filmmaking and delivers an ethical hypothesis that's by turns comedic, sensationalist and intimate but does require a progressive open-mindedness in order to be receptive to it's provocative themes. Trust me, leave your conservative mind at the door and embrace a true work of art.

Mark Walker
March 27, 2014
MrMarakai

Super Reviewer

Movies by definition are fake. During a production there are countless people on set, from grips, to gaffers, to cameramen, etc, but all we see is what's captured in front of the camera. Also, if you weren't aware of this, all of the actors on screen are acting! And furthermore, 99.999999999999% of the time when two actors engage in intercourse on screen, they are not actually engaged in said intercourse. Well, "Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1" throws that notion out the window; or so von Trier and LaBeouf (and Uma Thurman, on a recent episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live) wants us to believe. On the other hand, there is a disclaimer going around that none of the actors had penetrative sex during the shooting of this film; meaning things were faked out using body doubles and such. That said, after watching this, there are some camera angles where the physical contact is undeniable, and coupled with LaBeouf in the buff, these visuals had me believing that if any of this was faked at any point, it fooled the hell out of me. In short, "Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1" is highly explicit...but that goes without saying.

Read the rest of my review at: http://www.examiner.com/review/nymphomaniac-vol-1-how-shia-got-his-groove-back

Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus
March 25, 2014
Markus Emilio Robinson
Markus Robinson

Super Reviewer

    1. Mrs. H: Would it be alright if I showed the children the whoring bed?
    – Submitted by Abner H (18 days ago)
    1. Seligman: Well I divide humanity into two groups: The people who cut the nails on the left hand first and the people who cut the nails of the right hand first.
    – Submitted by Abner H (18 days ago)
    1. Seligman: And I'm still not allowed to feel sorry for you?
    – Submitted by Abner H (18 days ago)
    1. B: Do you think you know everything about sex? The secret ingredient to sex... is love.
    – Submitted by Abner H (18 days ago)
    1. Seligman: I don't even know your name.
    2. Joe: My name is Joe.
    3. Seligman: I'm Seligman.
    4. Joe: What a fucking ridiculous name.
    5. Seligman: It's Jewish.
    – Submitted by Abner H (18 days ago)
    1. Joe: I'm just a bad human being.
    2. Seligman: I've never met a bad human being.
    3. Joe: Well, you have now.
    – Submitted by Abner H (18 days ago)
View all quotes (8)

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Foreign Titles

  • Nymphomaniac 1+2 (DE)
  • Nymphomaniac: Volumes I & II (UK)
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