Eli Hayes’s review published on Letterboxd:
I wish that I could say that this is going to be a long review, but it's not. And I wish that I could say that I could write about this film for hours, but I cannot. However, this writer's block, if you will, is not due to any sort of disappointment, nor did Nymphomaniac leave me in the cold. For the most part, it's due to me having only seen half of the film, and thus I have received only half of what von Trier is attempting to communicate. I almost wish that the theater I saw Vol. I in had immediately followed it up with Vol. II; I would have been willing to sit there for another couple of hours. I was engaged. I love this director's films, and I have been an avid fan of the man ever since my first viewing of Dancer in the Dark - one of my five favorite films of all-time - which left me in the fetal position with tears stained to my pillow. Well, I suppose that Vol. I left me both shocked... and also not shocked at all. What wasn't shocking to me, was the content. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I'm already familiar with the director's extreme filmmaking approach, maybe I knew what I was in for, or maybe I'm just completely desensitized to the content of most films by this point in my life (I'm only twenty, so this is a scary thought), but I didn't find Vol. I to be all that graphic or over-sexualized. In fact, anybody who has seen this film and would go as far as calling it "porn" is simply in the wrong; about three fourths of the film was dialogue - brilliant, thought-provoking dialogue, I should add... this film is VERY well written - and while the sex was present, and more intense than it is in most films (aside from maybe the likes of Stranger by the Lake and Blue is the Warmest Color), I was actually quite thankful for how relatively grounded it remained throughout. Nymphomaniac is, above all else, raw, unadulterated filmmaking. And for that, I applaud Mr. von Trier and the rest of the cast and crew. On to what did shock me though: the use of humor. I had read that this was going to be one of von Trier's more comedic attempts, but there were two things, in particular, about the humor in this film that I found to be rather stunning; first of all, there was a lot of it... I mean, this movie is - dare I say - hilarious. Maybe I'm a little bit warped in the head, but I was laughing pretty consistently throughout the film. All of the performances were great in their comedic delivery, especially Uma Thurman. For me, she honestly stole the entire Vol. with her one scene. The way that the scene (as well as the whole film, for that matter) was edited only added to the sense of dark humor. Dark humor. Dark. Dark, dark, dark: the second thing that I found stunning was how cold the humor in this film was. I was expecting the humor to be black, but this was some of the blackest humor I've ever come across. To approach such a subject matter with this much cynicism and juxtapose it with this much playfulness is an insane and admirable directorial choice. By the way, the directing, as usual, was top notch; I especially enjoyed the utilization of B+W in one of the chapters, as well as some of the more subtle symbolism and inside jokes/homages that von Trier likes to include in his films (e.g. the shot that acted as a backdrop to the first chapter credit, which was clearly paying respect to the reeds in Tarkovsky's Solaris, though this is no surprise seeing as von Trier has paid homage to Tarkovksy in his previous films, most overtly in that the entire film Antichrist is dedicated to the memory of the great Russian director). Anyway, I apologize if this review seems at all incoherent or incomplete, but this is in part due to the fact that Vol. I most certainly left me baffled. It's also past two in the morning, so I'm very exhausted (both due to the time, and due to the experience of watching this absolutely mad work of art). As soon as I see Vol. II, I will post another review documenting my thoughts on the second half of such a twisted tale, but I'm pleased to report that, so far, I'm finding Nymphomaniac to be a fascinating study of both a singular character and an entire society.
Okay, I guess that was kind of long.