Director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen in Oslo with Helene Bergsholm
TURN ME ON, DAMMIT! (Få meg på, for faen) B+
Norway (76 mi) 2011 d: Jannicke Systad Jacobsen
While the film title reflects a whimsical, almost comic book style silliness, where there’s not likely to be anything to take seriously, this is instead a hilarious, surprisingly complex and insightful youth film, told from the point of view of one 15-year old Norwegian girl, Alma (Helene Bergsholm), who is smart and sarcastic as hell. Just the opening segue introducing her tiny Norwegian town in the mountains as a place of empty roads and sheep, where absolutely nothing ever happens, where the girls her age give the village sign the finger every time they enter town, which is in stark contrast to the majestic mountainside forests with a pristine lake down below set in the rugged fjords of the region. In fact, it looks like a perfect vacation destination, but every kid loathes the town they get stuck in. Alma hangs out with two sisters, Ingrid (Beate Støfring), a buxom Scandinavian Brünnhilde with a love for lip gloss and Saralou (Malin Bjørhovde), an edgier outcast with a social conscience closer to Thora Birch’s Enid from GHOST WORLD (2001). Alma, herself a blond beauty, pokes fun of the world around her while continually imagining herself in the throes of some wild sexual experience, where unlike many teen movies she isn’t having lots of sex, she’s dreaming of having lots of sex, keeping her so confused her fantasy and reality worlds are interchangeable, keeping the viewer off balance as well where they can’t tell the difference. Her alternate world is sexy and hilarious and certainly keeps her upbeat and happy. The problem is having to return to reality and bear the same monotonous doldrums all over again.
Based on a novel by Olaug Nilssen, about a girl in a small place with very active hormones, the story could be anyone and is not unique to Alma, but the director wraps this film around Alma’s snappy wit and personal charm, making this something of a Scandinavian delight constantly poking fun at itself, a film that would never be made in the United States, as the uninhibited sex scenes are scandalous showing teenagers actually enjoying themselves—how novel an idea. For instance, in the opening scene, Alma gets down and dirty on her kitchen floor, fingering herself while listening to Stigge, an overfriendly phone sex operator from “Wet and Wild Dreams.” But the real object of Alma’s desires is Artur (Matias Myren), a cute kid living nearby that she sees at school and also occasionally while walking her dog, but she envisions him climbing through her window at night crawling into bed with her and spending the night in each other’s arms. Instead she meets him at a dance at the local youth center, which is basically a gymnasium without basketball nets and old beat up sofas sitting outside. While Alma is standing outside sipping a beer, Artur walks up and exposes himself, actually poking her thigh with his erection, where it’s impossible to know whether this is real or imagined. However venomous rumors rapidly spread throughout the school and Alma is immediately shunned and ostracized, even by her own friends, becoming the least popular kid in class, where graffiti on the bathroom walls label her “Dick-Alma.”
This is like every 15-year old’s worst nightmare, expressed in a laceratingly dark comic style that also contains a touch of poignancy, as despite the fact her fantasies do resemble the sexually hyper-exaggerated world of musicals, she is completely devastated by the turn of events. Making matters worse, her mom finds out about her phone sex bills and blabs about it to everyone she knows all over town. This is the true portrait of small towns where everyone knows everybody else’s business, where you can’t do a thing without the whole world knowing about it. In panic, Alma runs away to Oslo to visit Saralou’s older sister Marie in college, hoping she can offer some perspective, where after hearing Alma’s story one of her boyfriends actually composes a tender tribute song on the spot called “Dick-Alma.” Wonderfully capturing the awkward age of teenagers, this is a coming-of-age comedy where Alma hopes to reclaim her lost self esteem, where her sexual awakening coincides with her newly developing maturity, where she has to find a way to handle the gossipers and backstabbers that thrive in every small town. This first time filmmaker hits all the right notes with this one, writing an impressively smart screenplay that obsesses and thrives on teen boredom, a socially observant and delightful romp, drop dead hilarious at times, made even more appealing by the outstanding music from Ginge Anvik.