As the sexual saga continues in Lars Von Trier's second volume of "Nymphomaniac," Jo's (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) story moves into adulthood and, as I'm sure the director was hoping for, it becomes increasingly harder to watch.
A welcoming addition to the this chapter is Mr. Jamie Bell. Played with great restraint, his abuse towards Jo will cause viewers to cringe. Though it's not the sadomasochism that becomes the brutal viewing point, it's the little moments in between. This offers us a glimpse into another part of Jo's tortured soul, though whether she is solely responsible for the torture is a matter up for discussion.
As Jo's story starts to come full circle, which Mr. Von Trier achieves beautifully, the images become abundantly more uncomfortable and intrusive. Touching on pedophilia, Jo has a surprisingly moving monologue concerning people being born with a desire that leaves them unable to be satisfied. This concept of desire is also touched upon in the juxtaposition of a man leaving his wife because of his attraction to another woman (as in the Mrs. H. chapter) and a woman leaving her family behind for her sexual satisfaction.
Overall, the second chapter is littered with shock value and not enough story. Even the ending feels too abrupt and haphazard. While certain plots resolve themselves, such as "the numbers," others are left to die.
Could possibly extending the first volume by a mere 45 minutes have saved the entirety of the two films as a whole? Maybe so. We'd miss out on some minor plots but it might have left us with more satisfaction.
I can imagine that many people won't be able to make it through Volume II because of the sheer sexual violence, but for the ones that do, "Nymphomaniac" and its message comes through reflection not viewing. This is the beauty of Von Trier's work and why his work still garners attention worthy of cinephiles and artists everywhere.
"Nymphomaniac: Volume II" is playing in selected theaters.