Before I start I want to address that this film is on Netflix for a reason, I am fairly sure no network would ever allow this film to air, not even HBO. In the spirit of full disclosure, much of this film is blatantly pornographic. There are claims of “body doubles,” but honestly I don’t buy it. However, I am not recommending 5 hours of porn in an effort to increase male readership, this series is legitimately great. If my previous statements didn’t spark your interest and you ever find yourself reminiscing the Disney days, you should know that Shia LaBeouf plays a very active role in this film.
Part I begins when a woman, Joe, is found bloody and beaten in an alley by a kind older man named Seligman, a somber scene juxtaposed with a sort of heavy metal rock music. Seligman gives her clean clothes and a bed to sleep in, thus initiating their dialogue which carries us through the entire duration of the saga. In an effort to explain her lack of morality and impending descent into hell, Joe begins telling him of her experiences as a “nymphomaniac.” Intertwined in these reflections are abrupt relapses into reality, in which Seligman compares her memories and missteps to the process of fly fishing. These comparisons, while kind hearted and occasionally comforting, are repeatedly contested by Joe. This represents a very important detail of this picture, in that there is a consistent disconnect between Joe and Seligman. He never fully understands her experiences or their implications, lending explanation to the shocking final few minutes of Part II.
Beneath all of the erotica, this saga presents an important message about sex in modern society. An appreciated detail of this film was the relationship between Joe and her loving father, subtly executed by Christian Slater. There is a wide social misconception today that women who enjoy engaging in promiscuous sexual behavior must be emotionally damaged. A woman with multiple partners must have “daddy issues.” This story turns the table by introducing you to a nymphomaniac with a very strong and stable paternal relationship.
Part II, the darker of the series, addresses the gender-based double standard placed upon those who abandon their families. The tone is not boastful or proud in the moments when Joe chooses her addiction over her family, but it is keenly noted that if she were a man her actions would not have had such a sour taste.
It is my belief that only Lars Von Trier could create a cinematic and artistic piece with a structure generally considered taboo. Both segments are flooded with artistic effects and inventive editing ploys. The cinematography and direction of this film is what provides distinction between a creative film, and a dirty indie movie. Do not let these movies pass you by, and do not watch without headphones.