Friday, September 5, 2014

Nymphomaniac and Sexuality on Screen

  Last week I watched Lars Von Trier’s two part epic “Nymphomaniac”. I went into it thinking it would be some old guy’s twisted fantasies of the perfect sexual woman projected on to the screen but was quite surprised to find it had a lot more depth. For one, it dealt with a rarely discussed issue in film of sex and morality. In America these two things are almost always linked yet we do not frequently examine this connection. Is sex inherently immoral? Why are women cast out for having affairs and active sex lives, while men are praised for this?
The main character of the film, Joe, is a self-proclaimed nymphomaniac, and the film begins with her saying she is a truly horrible person who does not deserve to be alive. She then goes on to tell a man, Seligman, who found her in an alley about the illicit sexual exploits that make up her life.  He continually asserts that her guilt is misguided and that were she a man, she would not have been punished the way she was. This is a perspective not many films include.

For example, as a teenager Joe and her best friend B have a competition to see how many people they can have sex with while on a single train ride. The way Joe describes it is a morally corrupt disgusting act, whereas Seligman points out that were a man searching for sex on a train, and pursuing multiple women, no one would even think twice about it.

Another way the film points out this double standard is when Joe leaves her family when she cannot stay loyal to her husband and is made to feel like a horrible person for this, while many men even in the movie leave their spouse and child due to infidelity. Because she is a woman and a mother, her leaving her family is particularly horrible. This too, Seligman points out.

Overall, to see a woman talk this openly and explicitly about sex, and be supported for it, is a bold statement for a film to make.

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