Von Trier, whose "Antichrist" juxtaposed, in gorgeous black-and-white, the passionate lovemaking of parents while their son fatally falls from a snowy window, is drawn to the intersection of eroticism and tragedy. He's on a wild streak, having followed "Antichrist" with the beautifully depressive apocalypse of "Melancholia."
In "Nymphomaniac," von Trier — a showman and a show-off — restlessly splits the image, overlays numbers on the screen and makes self-conscious winks. Joe responds to one of Seligman's interjections: "This was one of your weakest digressions."
"Nymphomaniac" is his testament to the "strongest force in humanity," as sex is called in the film. Von Trier, like Joe, surely wants to drain lovemaking of its sentimentality. He's made a mad movie that's something like sleeping with a fascinating, insufferable crazy person. A one-night stand with "Nymphomaniac" is plenty.
"Nymphomaniac: Volume I and II," a Relativity release, is unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America." It contains NC-17 levels of sex and nudity. Running time: Volume I is 117 minutes; Volume II is 123 minutes. Three stars out of four.