In my review for the first volume of this, I (somewhat jokingly) made some comparisons between von Trier and Rick Ross. After watching volume 2, I feel only more reinforced in my theory that they are incredibly similar. I only add to what I previously wrote with, to their credit I suppose, that projects from both of them have this air of curiosity around them that beckons us to watch them. They usually turn out to be disappointments, but we still come back to them when they come out with something new, just to know if this is the one that changes our minds.
The plot picks up with Joe(Charlotte Gainsbourg) continuing her life story to the old professor Seligman(Stellan Skarsgard) who took her in after finding her beaten up in an alley. Her story starts off with her renewed relationship with Jerome(Shia Labeouf) and follows their downfall as well as her taking on an apprentice in a criminal enterprise all up to her present state.
Gainsbourg and Skarsgard are serviceable as before. While we do get some interesting revelations as to why Seligman tries to intellectualize everything, it doesn’t necessarily intellectualize the film like von Trier hopes it will. Labeouf’s British accent doesn’t get any less distractingly fake unfortunately. It’s always a fun time watching Willem Dafoe tap into sliminess, as he does here in the part of crimelord L.
I will say though, there’s something brilliant in casting Jamie Bell as K, a violent sadistic man who makes a living performing sadomasochist acts upon women. Bell’s natural boyish looks are a great contrast to K’s constant sense of controlled threat. He gives instructions to Joe as if he’s a photographer trying to get her in the right lighting and posture.
There are improvements in this volume over the first. Some range of dimension is added to Joe’s character through Gainsbourg. There are moments of wry comedic editing, such as a shot packed with quacking ducks, and a tongue-in-cheek use of The Talking Heads “Burning Down the House”. There is simply a better sense of self within this volume that the first volume lacked. This seems to start to understand what kind of tone it wants to have. However for what it does begin to improve upon, there is still a large sense of “too little, too late” when these improvements don’t start happening until the 3rd hour of a 4 hour endeavor.
The whole thing is just exhaustive, leaving me feeling as if I’ve been beaten up and left in an alley.