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Blu-ray review: Nymphomaniac Volume I & II Boxset

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Nymphomaniac image★★★★★

Nymphomaniac caused something of a stir when it was released, though this was mainly down to the provocative ‘orgasm’ posters and explicit trailer rather down to the actual film.

Nevertheless, the film itself goes quite close to the bone, with graphic, real sex scenes and some very disturbing content. However, Lars von Trier has succeeded in crafted something playful, memorable and troubling with his two-part sex-extravaganza. It is a masterful piece of work, certainly one of his best, and I hope it will find a larger audience on Blu-ray and DVD.

The set-up is grounded in a conversation between a woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who is found lying on the ground having been assaulted and an older man (Stellan Skarsgard) who comes to rescue her. From his small and slightly depressing flat she tells him her life story and how she has got to that moment. As she tells it, we watch it unfurl and through it we get a catalogue of her sexual encounters and how her life has been affected by her need for sex.

The film can be watched as a whole, with both sides back to back, though watching them as separate pictures works quite well. They take on a different tone, with the first lighter and sometimes hilariously funny and the second dark and disturbing. Two key scenes stand out as some of Von Trier’s best and most accomplished moments of drama. The first is a genius moment of black comedy, in Volume I, featuring Uma Thurman as a scorned wife who takes the children to see the person who has had an affair with their dad. The second, in Volume II, is a deeply disturbing scene featuring our protagonist trying to arouse a paedophile.

Though the content and subject matter may cause offense to some viewers, Nymphomaniac is so well put together, so smoothly cut and excellently staged that it is hard not to love its strange and mesmerising effect. Von Trier may court controversy, but he is still one of the most interesting and consistently inventive filmmakers working today.

A note on the release: Superbly shot with the Arri Alexa camera, this is a very good-looking film and Artificial Eye’s Blu-ray release is of their usual exceptionally high standard. The image is clean and detailed and perfectly recreates the gritty appearance of some of the flashback scenes whilst retaining clarity. The extras could be better, though for those who missed the ‘One Night Stand’ live-Q&A (with some Shia LaBeouf-inspired marketing) it’s helpfully included here.  

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