Nymphomaniac Volume 2 Review: This Climax Doesn’t Quite Come Together (Sorry)

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It’s hard to tell just what went wrong with the second half of Lars von Trier’s psychosexual thriller. One place to start looking, however, might be the editing room.

Volume 1 did such a wonderful job connecting us to Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), but by the end of the film, she had started to lose the very human sensation of having an orgasm. Volume 2 serves as her journey to get that back or move on in another direction. As far as Joe’s narrative arc goes, most of the leg work was done in the first half.

This means that the second half plods along, over explaining every action and every circumstance. It’s as if von Trier is trying to justify having two volumes, when really, this half could lose an hour to the cutting room floor, be slapped onto Volume 1, and we’d have one hell of a movie.

There are, of course, moments of brilliance, they just aren’t nearly as frequent as as they were in the first entry. I particularly loved the social experiment Joe executes on a pedophile, which, in turn, feels like an experiment von Trier is executing on the audience, daring us to adjust our pants. Joe’s connection to this man is justified, as she calls them both “sexual outcasts”.

There are enough moments like this in Volume 2 to fill up an hour, and the ending is mostly worth the two films it took to get there. But Volume 2 feels like an extended epilogue. Actually, it is very much like The Godfather Part III, occasionally brilliant but mostly messy and boring, relying on what came before it for its connection to the audience. I’m sure if you watch both parts of Nymphomaniac together this volume improves, but it likely also damages the first volume. The version I want to see is a three hour cut with most of Volume 1 intact. But, as a standalone film, the conclusion doesn’t live up to where we started. Grade: B-

By Matt Dougherty

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