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Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2: The Real “Fifty Shades of Grey”

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2


Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2
Image from Magnolia Pictures

Markus Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Not Rated

Picking up where we left off in “Vol. 1”, “Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2” continues to follow the sexual misadventures of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) as she tells Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) the rest of her story as a self diagnosed nymphomaniac. But much like the movie, this review is meant to be seen as an extension of “Vol. 1”. So, here’s a link to that review:

Throwing most of the penetrative sex to the wayside and replacing it with a bit of blasphemy and fetish stuff, what can I say? Like an intellectually engaging college lecture where no theories are off limits, I thoroughly enjoyed “Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2”. In my opinion, “Vol. 2” is where the mind of writer/director Lars von Trier really begins to emerge. Meaning, if the first one wasn’t for you, then know that the second half is thematically darker and contains a lot more theological toe stepping, as a majority of the sexual exploits have visual tie-ins to or mimic biblical events. While nothing here is said or done without reasoning or in an exploitative manner, and on a technical level von Trier does some of his best work (on the page and screen) there are things in “Vol. 2” which are far more uncomfortable to sit through than seeing Shia LeBeouf’s penis. Here is an example: There is a sequence of dialogue which attempts to defend pedophilia as a forbidden sexuality that some people are simply born with. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.

“Vol. 2” is all about exploring the mental and emotional side of sexual desires, as well as a semi-commentary on what kinds of sex acts modern society’s repressions have given birth to. The much anticipated “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie is set to come out next year. But what could that movie show me that Lars hasn’t already? Like many limit pushing films, the most important sequences are also the one hardest to watch. As explicitly in your face as the sex was in “Vol. 1”, it’s the unsettling S&M sequences which will illicit the most visceral response from audiences and critics alike, because of how far von Trier pushes the contact between the actors (I’m sure it was all camera tricks, but DAMN!) in conjunction with how each abused character reacts to their punishment.

The only hiccup here comes with von Trier’s over eagerness to switch out actors as they pass into adulthood (Stacy Martin is now played by Charlotte Gainsbourg). The latter half of this movie sees LaBeouf’s character awkwardly replaced by another actor, which unlike the Martin to Gainsbourg transition, becomes the slightest bit confusing.

Final Thought: While “Vol. 1” has a ton of interesting theories about adolescent sexual motivations, it will unfortunately be judged on its visual shock value; challenging audiences as to whether or not they are truly uncomfortable with the naked body. “Vol. 2” however is more about challenging audiences’ sexual theories. If one sees a naked body on screen, one can always walk out of the theater. But once you hear a theory that may contradict your own morality, you either must metaphorically cover your ears or let the idea marinate inside of you, challenging views that you may hold sacred. And in that way “Vol. 2” is more antagonistic. But this is what von Tier does best; shoves taboo ideas into your face until you either walk out or open yourself up to a dialogue.

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