Two (polemic) 2013 movies review: Nymphomaniac and Blue is the warmest colour

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As I´m in the middle of the scriptwriting process of some movies and one has the main topic of sex, I´ve been watching a lot of movies and series featuring erotism or sex scenes. I´ve really found little material that caught my attention but Nymphomaniac and Blue is the warmest colour were two exceptions, and here are my thoughts on them.

NO SPOILERS OR EXPLICIT CONTENT IN THE REVIEW (although both movies are meant for adults)

Let´s start with a brief synopsis:

Blue is the warmest colour: Adele's life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche starring Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. Palm D´Or for Best Picture in Cannes.

Some trivia: director wanted to follow Adèle´s day by day with the cameras in order to add realism to the movie, so they changed the character´s name from Clementine to Adèle for being able to record everything avoiding the problem of people not calling her like the character. Over 800 hours were shot.

Julie Maroh, the author of the original graphic novel on which this movie is based, dislikes this adaptation.

Synopsis source:

Nymphomaniac: A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac recounts her erotic experiences to the man who saved her after a beating. Directed by Lars Von Trier starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman, Christian Slater and many more famous actors.

Some trivia: OST features from Rammstein´s industrial aggresive metal til Bach´s baroque organ opus. It´s the final chapter of Von Trier´s Depression Trilogy, featuring Antichrist and Melancholia. The film starts with a black screen for about 45 seconds with just environmental sound, which might be a little homage to "The Innocents" start.

Main similarities on both european films:

-main characters are women. Men aren´t portrayed in depth, they are just there to be "used" (except the genitors and Stellan in Nymphomaniac because he helps on keeping the narration moving forward and looking for the explanations on Joe´s behaviour).

-the style is pretty documentary, realistic style on both of them, with a lot of shaky camera.

-they are long: Blue lasts 180 minutes and Nymphomaniac 5 hours and a half (for now they just released the first volume, featuring half of it).

-the acting is great, specially Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue and Stacy Martin in Nympho.

-there´s explicit sex.

-there are many conversations on philosophy and art.

-sex is related to food.

-they show how a young "innocent" girl becomes an adult woman, in Blue she falls in love with a lesbian and in Nympho the main character discovers her unstoppable lust.

The main differences:

-Blue takes the plot very serious and Nympho has a very particular sense of humour, although it´s also a drama.

-Blue is an adaptation of a comic book and Nymphomaniac is an original story.

-Nymphomaniac features a lot of scenes in which it seems the director - scriptwriter is talking directly to the viewer. That´s also empowered with some graphism appearing on screen (numbers, drawings, additional documentary footage). Blue is just the story of those two girls, nothing takes the viewer out of the events happening.

-Nymphomaniac features a huge amount of voice in off, given that the structure is based on the memories of the main character Joe and the conversation that she has with Stellan. Blue features none.

-Blue´s time is always present, no flasbacks or fastforwards. Nympho jumps from the past to the present continously.

-Blue is very intense. The relationship between both girls is very dramatic and passioned, while Nympho is more "philosophical". In Nympho they relate sex to many things in life: fishing, Bach´s music, literature... They talk about those topics long and deep. Therefore, Blue´s dialogues are very realistic and Nympho´s aren´t. Those seem more like reading an essay or being at a university´s lesson in many times. I never got into the characters because of the overdose of monologues.

-Blue´s shots are 85% of the movie close ups, Nympho has more variety: the film also features black and white scenes and some little animation techniques. 

-Blue´s sex scenes are long but I really didn´t believe they were performing it. Nympho´s sex scenes are shorter but more realistic. 

And let me stop here for a minute. Both movies were polemic because its sexual content but for me there´s only a problem with Blue is the warmest colour. Given that the style is realistic and the whole film puts you into that mood I don´t understand why they perform so crude and explicit sex acts faking it! The movement of the hands, of the bodies... you can feel the unreality of it. Even worse is the fact that they last for a while (there are some of the acts going non-stop for 6 minutes). So for me, explicit sex in Blue is a bad choice. It doesn´t add anything to the story. You could take them away or simply them for just a minute and it´ll work the same way.

Love, passion, jealousy, obsession... Blue is the warmest colour

On the opposite side we have Nymphomaniac, which also was hit by the polemic of explicit sex. I liked how it was portrayed. The acts are brief, realistic and just to add details into the story or the existentialist arguments. We can feel why Joe is having sex, because of curiosity, anger, sadness, lonelyness... It´s just a part of her life and so it is portrayed.

Music, philosophy, anatomy, pleasure... Nymphomaniac

So, was the explicit sex a really important way to tell the story? For me, not as much in Blue than in Nymphomaniac. It´s true that in Blue it shows how much passion both girls put into the relationship, how do they love each other and also is a part of Adèle´s life, which is the main point of the film: depict how Adèle lives, feels and loves.

In Nymphomaniac, sex is everywhere. Bach, Edgar Alan Poe, Fibonacci numbers, fishing... It´s a movie built on very interesting metaphores about it. Therefore it´s colder than Blue, like an anatomy lesson.

In both cases it´s depicted in a very natural way, never looking after the viewer´s lust like an exploitation movie. It´s sincere, intense and close to life (although I had my issues with Blue as I said).

As a conclusion, the movie´s pros: both are great intellectually stimulating films which I recommend you to watch and get your own conclusions. I´ve reviewed them together because I think both are a well combination, I couldn´t choose one among the other: what one features is missing in the other and viceversa. If Blue is passioned, emotional, dealing with actual issues and focused on the life of a single character, Nymphomaniac is universal, cold, analytic, trying to explain the way we act in many times and showing that morality and ethic has more than just one meaning. The actings are great (although Nympho has some exceptions, but it´s more on the script than on the actors).

Blue is the warmest colour: fire and love

The movie´s cons: given their length, you get bored at some points (more in Nympho than in Blue), I´m not a very big fan of the shaky camera and blurry, out of focus images. I disliked sex in Blue. Nympho is too explicit with the explanations of some of their topics, I missed some silence in order to think and get the conclusions by myself, I also didn´t like the dialogues of Stellan. 

Nymphomaniac: numbers, symbols, experimentation, sex and philosophy

If I had to give them a numeric rating, both would have a 7.5 out of 10. And, of course, didn´t understand so much polemic. Both are very respectful, intelligent and non exploitative films and sex/nudity is (an important) part of life.



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