Nymphomaniac Vol. 2 (2014) Review
The first half of this film was a reflection on reflection, on how we interpret our memory of the events of our past (or someone else’s), how we tie them together and attempt to either find or create meaning. This film continues that process, but develops to confront what we do with that information once the reflection is over.
However, that’s not before Jo’s story takes a much darker turn. If the first part was difficult to watch, this one will be too much for some. While some horribly brutal and terrible moments are shown, even more than watching those moments it’s the tension of waiting for them to happen that becomes the most unbearable. It’s the kind of tension that sends your heart racing and makes you question why you’re watching. After all, the trailers honestly hint at the kind of content to expect, and yet, there you are.
But the mark of great art, I believe, is not to pacify the soul; it is to agitate it, to set it in motion. To this point, an intriguing analogy is made throughout the film between Jo and Christ, and we are reminded of our tendency in the West to see this spiritual figure primarily through the lens of the violence committed against him. In fact, much of great Christian art has depicted the crucifixion, and shrines are built to his death. How, then, are we above witnessing the brutal journey of a psychologically afflicted girl? Is the difference perhaps in the meaning we can find in the journey, in how personal we can allow it to be? Is this why the structure of the film is dependent on reflection and analogy, rather than just going along for the ride?
It will be up to each viewer to decide. The film is certainly divisive, and will certainly agitate you in some way. And that’s not only in terms of content, but in the use of the medium itself; the director subverts ideas of continuity and credibility, helping this film to exceed any possible genre limits and to take the focus off perfection of craftsmanship. This is about a fractured woman, and it’s her gender that actually contributes to much of people’s response to her, and therefore to her cognitive dissonance. So, in my opinion, the way to get the most out of the film is with an inner acknowledgment of the titillation of the content as a way in, but a willingness to keep an open, critical, and observant mind beyond that as well: don’t be surprised when that path of desire unearths the darker side of our animal nature.