Tribeca 2011: TURN ME ON, GODDAMMIT! Review

Ben Umstead, East Coast Editor
Small towns are everywhere. There are plenty of small towns in Norway. Hell, most of the country is made up of small towns. There is even a small town called Hell. 15-year old Alma, lives in Skaddeheimen (which as far as I can tell is a fictional small town named for the obvious joke). She yearns to get out of there, and, as the above photo suggests, she is insatiably horny. This is the first moment we see her in the film.


Being horny, whether you hide it or not, whether you call Stig the phone sex guy or flick through a porno mag, is typical of a 15-year old. Director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen is frank and up front about that on all fronts. And though the plot isn't anything new (drinking, parties, ostracism) Jacobsen and her young cast bring a melancholy and misery to the proceedings, doused in a deadpan wit and imagination that most teen-centered fare woefully lacks. There are no villains here, though there are mean girls. Conflicts that could result in the end of the world may be a lot more manageable with just a slightly different perspective, though the pain and confusion isn't any less real.


As Alma, Helene Bergsholm see-saws back and forth between desperate and assertive, docile and a doe in the head lights, and yes indeed, still mighty horny; much of this is in her head, and even in rounds of masturbation her fantasies end up being very quaint and tender (running home through the woods, hand in hand with her crush Artur, a shot that recalls an idyllic Nordic fable) or oddly humorous (her friend's father in a bike helmet, dancing suggestively around his store). Jacobsen doesn't signal the audience when it's time for a "wacky" fantasy sequence, these moments play as naturally as can be, they are just as much apart of Alma's reality as everything else.     


It is Jacobsen's restraint as a filmmaker in these imagined moments, or her choice to turn a blind eye to the beautiful Fjord-etched landscapes which surround Alma (enclosing her even more so), or her trust in the audience to empathize on their own accord, that keeps the film pleasantly just south of weird and far, far away from the melodramatic.


From the moment Alma's classmates turn their back on her, to the night she decides to hitchhike to Oslo, Turn Me On, Goddammit! grounds itself in personal/social growing pains that ring true for teenagers of all kinds, everywhere: the lonely ones and popular ones, the stoners or would-be activists; in New York or Texas, in Bergen or Oslo, in a small town called Hell, or... Skaddeheimen.


Screens: April, 26, 30
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