Music Feature

Film Review: Turn Me On, Dammit!

by Piers Marchant
A young woman's carnal self-obsession.

Dir. Jannicke Systad Jacobsen
Score: 6.6

Fifteen-year-old Alma (Helene Bergsholm) lives in a small town high in the mountains of Norway. Fresh-faced and good-humored, she is nevertheless beset with a substantial personal issue: a perpetual and relentless sexual proclivity that she can't bestill with cheesy sex hotlines and continual masturbation fantasies. But what might sound like the set up of a particularly virulent porn flick, in the gentle hands of writer/director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen, becomes instead something simple, sweet and strangely uplifting.

The majority of Alma's fantasies involve a good-looking boy named Artur (Matias Myren), who seems to harbor a mutual crush on her, to the consternation of her best friend's older sister, Ingrid (Beate Støfring), who performs in the church chorus with Artur and herself is quite badly smitten with him. The trouble comes at a party at the community center, when Artur approaches Alma alone outside, and pokes her with his exposed erection. When Alma explains this to Ingrid, Artur denies everything, leaving her the laughing stock of the school, shunned even by the sardonic Sara (Malin Bjørhovde), her best friend. Interestingly, rather than fold in on herself, Alma instead takes the abuse and ostracizing with her head held high, even when her mother (Henriette Steenstrup) finds out and vents her fury at being so publically humiliated.

Despite the potentially steamy subject matter -- in America, a film concerning a young teen girl's incessant sexual voraciousness would never fly outside a Larry Clark project -- Jacobsen, working from the source novel by Olaug Nilssen, maintains a steadying hand, playing out the scenes between her young characters in charmingly unsentimental fashion. The effect, with its quirky small town population and gentle humor, is a bit like watching a slightly more suggestive Bill Forsythe flick.

There's also a strong undercurrent of female empowerment at play. Alma never once gives in to the cowardice of denial, she accepts herself, which ultimately is easily as significant as her unfortunate circumstance. It also greatly helps Jacobsen that she's loaded the film with subtle humor (sample line from the male voice on Alma's 'Wild Wet Dreams' sex line: "I'm officially about to come, what about you?") and well-wrought characters. It's also clear that Alma's sex obsession is more about her all-consuming and considerable imagination -- a point the director makes clear with several fantasy sequences dreamt up by her enraptured heroine. In fact, Alma seems so caught up in the world of her own mind at times, it's as if she can scarcely be bothered with the much slighter events happening on the physical world around her, which maybe is just as well.

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