The audience witnesses a dialogue between Jo, a woman in the early 40s, and an elderly man (imdb). She tells the story of her life and calls herself a nymphomaniac, meaning she`s addicted to sex and the intercourse with a lot of men. This gives way to a rich analytical discourse and offers a lot of philosophy - about pleasure and female sexuality of course, but also about coming of age, life in general, the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach, the importance of Fibonacci Numbers and much more. This approach makes "Nymphomaniac" intellectual substantial, but the movie is also very fresh, powerful, thrilling and sometimes humorous. It seems that Lars von Trier delivered a hymn to joy but that he also offers a somewhat feministic view on the tricky relationships between females and males.
The film has a lot of graphic sex scenes which makes it a member of a small club of general audience explicit feature films together with Michael Winterbottom´s "9 Songs", Vincent Gallo`s "Brown Bunny", Catherine Breillat`s "Romance" and Virginie Despentes"Baise-moi". Some scenes were filmed with porn actors and then in post-production got digital imposed onto the bodies of the film's actors, which gives the film a kind of a documentary character (wikipedia).
Von Trier worked with an impressive cast. The still exquisite Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jo impressed me with her filigrane grace combined with fragility - a defining element of the movie (vulture.com). But the newcomer Stacy Martin, who plays the younger Jo, is the center of Vol. I. The French actress, who celebrated recently her 24rst birthday, is an eye candy - an object of desire - but also shows some strength and wilfulness.
Stellan Skarsgård, as Jo`s dialogue partner, plays a fatherly type and radiates a zen-like calmness. He`s character resembles a psychotherapist, a kind of mental healer or an empathetic priest and confessor. It was nice to see Christian Slater again, who as Jo´s father gave a striking appearance.
Uma Thurman has a somewhat tragic-comical part and gives the film a kind of surrealistic aspect. Shia LaBeouf, one of the rising stars at Hollywood`s firmament, added also to the comical-surrealistic twists of the film.
The gorgeous cinematography by Manuel Alberto Claro belongs to the strengths of the movie. Some of the split screen effects are helpful to understand the complexity of the movie and add to its artistic impression. The gorgeous soundtrack made "Nymphomaniac" even stronger (imdb). Von Trier combined the very powerful sound of Rammstein, a idiosyncratic German heavy metal group, with classical compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach and others - pure genius.
I loved to watch this cinematic highlight and I am looking very much forward to see Vol. II which is expected for April.