DVD Review: Von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac' more comic than titillation

In reviewing "Nymphomaniac, Volume I" during its theatrical release, I said that "...the title may sound like a porn film, but, despite a fair amount of nudity, titillation is not its agenda. Its concerns are psychological and its tone often predominantly comic." "Volume II," sadly has very little comic (and still no titillation). Things are far grimmer this time around, and most of the sex scenes are brutal and without any joy.

In general, it's a shame that the first film is only half a story, unresolved without its other half, since part 2 has big, big problems. Stacy Martin — who played Joe, the heroine, in the flashbacks told by her older self (Charlotte Gainsbourg) in part 1 — continues in the role for the first twenty minutes of part 2. But then, in the course of a few years in story time, Joe appears to have gotten a full body and facial transplant, since she suddenly turns into Gainsbourg, to whom Martin bears almost no resemblance.

In a corollary development, Jerome, Shia LaBeouf's character, is taken over by a different actor for the movie's final twenty minutes. Or — and I say this seriously — maybe we are supposed to realize that the man Joe believes to be Jerome is actually someone with same first and last name and only a slight resemblance to Jerome. Nothing about this is clarified.

And then there's the ending. Even if one hates the "Nymphomaniac" saga's first three hours and forty-five minutes, it's undeniably a coherent work (except for the casting weirdness) by a skilled filmmaker. Sadly, the same cannot be said about the last few minutes, in which von Trier pulls out an ending that is trite, nonsensical, and frankly loathsome. Von Trier's films are almost always laden with irony, but not the cheap, contemptuous irony on display here, which almost invalidates everything good that has preceded. You'd do better by stopping the playback at around the 1:57 mark and sparing yourself this quick ride to hell in a tatty, shopworn handbasket.

Among the sorry repercussions of part 2's missteps are the endless conversations about them on the IMDb message board — conversations that are amazingly idiotic, often offensive, even by the moronic standards of IMDb message boards.

Each of the two discs has about 15 minutes of shallow interview footage with the four stars, some moments of which turn up more than once. We learn little of interest, except that Shia LaBeouf is a numbskull.

Nymphomaniac, Volume I and Volume II (Magnolia Home Entertainment, Blu-ray, two discs, $39.98; DVD, two discs, $34.98; each volume is also available separately for $29.98 on Blu-ray, $26.98 on DVD)


ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).

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