I feel sad for the professional reviewer sometimes. Those epicureans who force feed themselves on a diet of whatever slop is thrown before them until they cannot tell the bacon- from the orange-rind.
Take, for example, the reviews I have read for “Nymphomaniac” by Lars von Trier. I was drawn to it by a review I read in the Guardian. I am not sure what Peter Bradshaw was thinking when he wrote this, but he really seemed to have put some effort in. Unfortunately, he seems to be the only one. For the rest, they have all the enthusiasm of a bored wank on a Sunday afternoon on the couch watching National Geographic. And all the vitriol of one’s spouse on discovering one doing so.
So let me give this a swing, and possibly a miss, as an amateur who does not watch many movies or write reviews for a living.
Firstly, whatever your expectations, prepare to be disappointed. Also be prepared for the neophyte you dragged along to watch with you to be gushing as you leave.
If you happen to be a fan of Melvyn Bragg and you have heard his “In our Time” podcast on Plato’s Symposium, you may walk out of Part II with a grim satisfaction.
This is a philosophical treatise on sex. It is not the kind of philosophy that the New Yorker would enjoy nor the kind of virginity that Disney would preach.
My first first year philosophy essay was on the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. This is the kind of philosophy, and sex, that Lewis Carroll would enjoy. “I discovered my cunt as a two-year-old.”
Lars von Trier is not taking you on a sexual adventure, nor is he making a philosophical argument. He is hosting a symposium of sex and symbolism.
From the slutty teen to the satiated masochist; from fly fishing science to a perverted ascension; with an argument of cocks and a quorum of pussies; Nymphomaniac takes you hither and thither, never reaching an obvious conclusion.
Unless it does.
Whatever your motivations for seeing this movie, you will feel cheated. Exquisitely and wonderfully cheated.