Tag Archives: von Trier

Women Who Prey

18 Apr

Film Review Under the Skin

Much will be said about the women and their use of sex as a means to an end in Lars von Trier’s two part Nymphomaniac and Jonathan Glazer’s alluring new film,Under the Skin. Sex in both endeavors is a must; an addiction in the former and a tool for sustenance in the latter. But in both cases the women are driven by something beyond their control and as a result, they prey.

Joe (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, with Stacy Martin as the young incarnation), the insatiable protagonist in von Trier’s pandering provocation, embarks on her first hunt aboard a train wearing gleefully self-described “fuck me” garb. She’s looking to achieve a series of bathroom conquests and baits the men, packed like sardines into cramped traveling compartments, with fluttering doe-like eyes as she requests help in finding the washroom, and later, for her crowing achievement, settles on a more stately married man in first class. He is so morally affixed and committed that to break that bond will yield the greatest conquest and the most points in an ongoing game of sexual one-upmanship with a fellow train cruiser. After swaying the reluctant mark,  he passively empties himself into her mouth. The man is changed, drained, and emotionally shaken from the transgression he consciously wished no part of until mid-ejaculation. For Joe the act is simply a tally notch, a big bull buffalo on the savanna that her sleek apex feline sussed out, isolated, and brought down. How the man returns to his wife, or if his life is disrupted from the interlude, is of no concern.

In the wild, the act of predation is cold, calculating and necessary. There is nothing civil or remorseful about it. While Joe does it to feed her id or inner dysfunction, Scarlett Johansson’s intoxicating incarnation in Under the Skin, largely nameless but identified as Laura in the credits, does it out of rote need. She’s not of our world but something supernatural, a celestial traveler who has been transfigured to look like us, and on something of a farming mission to harvest human flesh for her ilk. The urgency of her assignment renders palpable and strong as she patrols the streets of Glasgow in an austere white van asking for directions (uncannily similar to Joe’s locomotive panderings).  Continue reading

Nymphomaniac: Vol. II

5 Apr

‘Nymphomaniac: Vol. II’: Sad, porny saga by von Trier wraps up better than it began


The good news is that Danish director Lars von Trier saves his best for last, at least in his two-part “Nymphomaniac” about a woman with an insatiable sexual appetite and repugnant personal conduct. If you missed Volume I, you need to go back before going forward. To dive in without would be pointless. The rest of you tormented souls all know that Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) sits in the apartment of Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) after he has found her beaten and lying in the streets and she is in the midst of recounting her story of being “a terrible human being” from her childhood.

040414i Nymphomaniac- Vol. IIThe plus is that Joe’s flashbacks are closer in time to the now and Gainsbourg, an immensely talented and game actress, is able to play her younger self instead of relying on Stacy Martin, a ravishing but largely wooden prop who only seems to have a flicker in her eye when sucking cock. Gainsbourg too gets a workout – double penetration with two Africans who can’t speak English (she needs a translator to set up the sexcapade) – and goes into the loan-collecting business (for Willem Dafoe, almost as sinister as he was in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), in which her newly learned talents in B&D extract funds quicker than a brutal bruising.

But Joe does not emerge as any more sympathetic in this expanded chapter. She’s married Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf), the young man she targeted to take her virginity, and they have a young child, yet every night she leaves her child alone to sit in the waiting room hoping to catch the eye of an S&M master (Jamie Bell, aka “Billy Elliot”). The negligence is paramount, and the addiction ephemeral at best. Truly, she may just be the “terrible human” she professes she is; and yet with such condemnation onscreen there is no discernible greater contemplation. If there was, I missed it between the beatings and front and back entries.  Continue reading


22 Mar

‘Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1′: Graphic but not groundbreaking, and so far little meaning

By Tom Meek
March 20, 2014


Danish director Lars von Trier has always been a puckish provocateur and enfant terrible – and to some, worse, considering his Nazi-sympathizer comments at Cannes 2011 (for which he later offered apologies before defiantly taking it back). As a filmmaker, however, his genius has always been right up on the screen in the minimalistic, stagelike lo-fi style he encapsulated with the Dogme 95 manifesto. It’s not for everybody, and it can be trying, but for those willing, a von Trier film is an experience that boils down the human condition into provocative and uncomfortable pokes in the eye while forcing you to confront yourself.

032014i Nymphomaniac- Vol. 1The most emblematic of von Trier’s vast filmography might be one of his lesser-known works: the 2003 curio “The Five Obstructions,” in which von Trier challenges mentor Jørgen Leth to remake his 1967 short film “The Perfect Human” five times, each with a new restricting specification. One obstruction has Leth make the film in the worst place on earth (the slums of Mumbai) and another has him do it as animation (a form both directors detest); and with each new needling hurdle he lays down, von Trier grins with impish glee while shoveling mounds of caviar into his face.  Continue reading