Grade A

Writer/Director Lars von Trier creates a near-masterpiece with “Nymphomaniac,” starring Charlotte Gainsburg and Stacy Martin playing the title role at different stages of the character’s life.  Beaten and unconscious, Gainsburg is found in an alley by Stellan Skarsgard, who takes her into his apartment where she reveals to him how he came to find her.  It is a long story, told in chapters, starting when she was 2-years-old; and as she recounts her tale, the asexual Skarsgard finds parallels to his own life and experiences and/or things he has read about.

Trier shocks the average viewer early on with sex scenes that shows penetration (with many, many more throughout the nearly 6 hour opus).   But viewers who aren’t so puritanical will find Gainsburg’s and Martin’s story riveting.  Take away the nymphomaniac part, and many will see bits and pieces of their own lives in Gainsburg’s story: losing one’s virginity, sexual experimentation, falling in love unexpectedly, marriage problems, addiction, the agony of seeing a loved one slowly die in a hospital, and accepting yourself for who you are despite what “normal” people in society tell you what you should be.

One of my memorable, movie moments of “Nymphomaniac” is the scene when Gainsburg is extorting money from a man.  When she discovers his sexual preference — which many will find evil — what she does next is extremely surprising; and her reasoning for doing so is even more surprising.  It’s possibly the most controversial scene in a movie that screams of controversy.

Easily taking the number one spot for my memorable, movie moment of “Nymphomaniac” is the do-it-yourself abortion scene.   I’ve watched countless, gory movies since I was a kid with relish; but this scene made me so squeamish that I kept crossing my legs tight and had to avert my eyes numerous times.  I chalk it up to Trier doing a great job of letting me get to know a character so well that I saw her as a friend; and to see her suffer so much brought out a negative, physical reaction in me.

Despite the lurid, pornographic sex scenes in “Nymphomaniac,” at its core it is a woman’s journey through life where her sexuality is the most dominating aspect of her being.  As I stated at the beginning, this is a near-masterpiece in my opinion — “near” because the last minute of the movie just did not ring true with me.

— M