Originally made as a single, long film, Nymph()maniac has Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) telling the story of her life to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard). She is a nymphomaniac, telling the story of her sexual adventures in chapters to this man. It did raise the question for me – why? Seligman found her injured in an alley and when she refused an ambulance, takes her home and she tells him this sexy story. And when I say sexy, it’s really a tragic story of a woman who has sexual urges that almost stop her from living her life.
Like many Lars von Trier films, it’s a hard watch. The characters are generally quite appealing although in this case, at least they are also quite self-aware. Despite the amount of sex in the film, it is actually a pretty unsexy film – perhaps because the audience is being told by Joe that she should be judged, yet we don’t want to judge her, but at the same time, it is almost impossible to not judge her. The films are part of the Trio of Depression (along with the wonderful Melancholia and Antichrist, which I’ve not yet seen). Possibly more interesting that the film itself are some of the methods they used to film it, including having body doubles having actual sex and using special effects to make it all work together. And all kinds of prosthetics.
I remember promising myself after watching Dancer in the Dark that I would be very careful of watching films by Lars von Trier. It was such a difficult film, so incredibly painful and horrible. Melancholia is not as heart wrenching, but it is certainly an extremely emotional journey. If you let it be.
The film starts with a series of ultra slow, beautiful images which were wasted on my small television screen. Then we meet Justin (Kirsten Dunst) and her new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) in a stretch limo that is struggling to negotiate a narrow and windy road; it’s amusing, but seems like a very clunky metaphor for a failing relationship. Finally, they arrive at the party and everything seems fabulous. The bride and groom are laughing and socializing. There are awkward moments with her parents and boss, but it seems perfectly normal until it gradually becomes clear that she is suffering from some kind of debilitating depression and that their relationship is not all it is set up to be. Justine winds up staying with her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland).
On top of this, there is a mysterious new planet, Melancholia (the name being a metaphor being one I appreciated a lot more than the stretch limo) which has been hiding behind the sun. It has emerged and appears to be heading toward Earth.
It is certainly a beautiful film that I wish I’d seen in the cinema; it is almost impossible to get a good sense of the beauty of the cinematography on a small screen. I often find that films with character such as these who are quite annoying and make poor decisions, I get very annoyed. But instead, with Melancholia, I was drawn in and wanted to know more.
I have become totally obsessed with the opening sequence. I find it totally hypnotising and mesmerising. I even found it on youtube to watch whenever I like. Here it is: