We've been writing about Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac for a couple of years now, reporting on the explicit sex scenes, the madness, the whole circus. Through it all we've been bracing ourselves for a movie that we know is basically a massive practical joke on us, though now it's here, it seems Nymphomaniac: Volume 1 could be one of the cinematic highlights of 2014.

Lars Von Trier Nymphomaniac

It stars Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe, a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac who is discovered badly beaten in an alley by an older bachelor (Stellan Skarsgard) who takes her home. As he sees to her wounds, Joe recounts the erotic story of her adolescence and young-adulthood, told in flashbacks.

"For the first time in a long time, von Trier isn't hiding behind anything--perhaps finally too exasperated with the fallout of his own public impishness to bother putting on airs," said Slant magazine.

"A provocative, engrossing, often hilarious, frequently tough picture. Not for all sensibilities but it's among von Trier's more playful, purely entertaining films, with insight and humour in even the horrors," said Empire magazine.

"For the most part Nymphomaniac is compelling and achieves exactly what von Trier set out to do: a multi-faceted exploration of sexuality, in all its bizarre, twisted glory," said The List.

"A ferociously entertaining experience in which one finds von Trier at the peak of his craft, linking together ideas about female sexuality, fly-fishing and artistic creation with equal amounts of playfulness and intellectual rigor," wrote Variety of the movie.

Nymphomaniac Volume 1

Speaking to Indiewire.com about first hearing about Von Trier's plans to cast her as a nymphomaniac, Gainsbourg said, "I just thought it was a joke, and that it was a provocation.And I didn't want to hope too much that he was going to ask. The big thing for me was that I was realizing he was asking me to do a third film, and it was such a blessing, and that's the way I always thought about it. And I didn't want to think about it too much in case it wasn't true."

Check out our review for 'Nymphomaniac' here

Nymphomaniac Volume 1 hits cinemas in the UK on Saturday (February 22, 2014).