Monday, 24 February 2014


An act of culumative cognitive dissonance, achieved through the analysis of nymphomania. In making any one point, Lars von Trier simultaneously rebuts it, apparently concluding that no study of psychology can ever provide concrete evidence to support a certain, individual claim. He once again presents himself as a figure of extreme, caustic duality, and launches an exploration - of the human mind and, specifically, of his own, and also of the medium of cinema. In the former, he is as thorough as one could expect him to be, even absorbing his many digressions into the thematic centre of his film. In the latter, he is more brazen than ever before, submitting wholly to each and every stylistic demand his dense, erratic screenplay makes of him. It's a show of dedication to his principle concern (which is never the tone of Nymphomaniac, but the intellectual content) and a show of carefree confidence. All the film's little quirks von Trier seems to insist upon not merely as reasonable but as essential, and even if you're too distracted by his outright arrogance to appreciate how correct he often is and how much artistry he charges all these affectations with, surely you can see the artistry in being so bold at all. With attentions deflected from tonal matters, Nymphomaniac is mostly, and most appropriately, cold and cerebral, engaging the brain rather than the eyes and ears, though not even Lars would be so cruel to his audience as to deny us some sensory pleasures, which include a number of typically stunning shots: alas, there are few in mainstream cinema with so gifted a sense for mise-en-scene, much as he may attempt to eschew this gift here. There is, especially for so frequently gloomy an enterprise, rather more broad humour than expected; I have never found Lars von Trier's films as funny as many do, and this is particularly true of Nymphomaniac, in which the comedy is palpable indeed, but woven so deeply into the fabric of this generally tragic tale that its odd, sneering presence is willfully exposed as pure provocation. Not sex, not politics, not even psychology - Lars von Trier has finally fully embraced his role as the most arch of international cinema's contemporary masters by pushing our buttons with humour, or perhaps with those contradictions this film is so full of. That unsettling cognitive dissonance that pervades it. And one can imagine how, as we laugh at the characters on screen, he too is laughing off screen, only not at them, but at us.