Friday, March 30, 2012

Movie with Abe: Turn Me On, Dammit!

Turn Me On, Dammit!
Directed by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen
Released March 30, 2012

This standout Tribeca Film Festival entry from last year finally arrives in U.S. theatres almost a year later. It’s the kind of film about teen angst that would never be seen in an American production, exploring one 15-year-old girl’s sexual desires and her inability to think about anything else but fulfilling them. Instead of presenting either a perverse or an overly comedic portrait of Alma’s life and thoughts, “Turn Me On, Dammit!” takes a subtler and more distanced approach, refusing to judge any of its characters and letting them speak for themselves. As a result, the film is affecting and charming in its own little peculiar way.

Tendencies and habits are quickly established that help to define the world in which these characters live, as Alma and her friends always remember to stick their middle fingers up at the sign they pass on the bus each day that signals their re-entry into their hometown. Alma wears her emotions on her face, usually broadcasting a façade of disinterest but easily excited by the rare interesting opportunity or situation that presents itself in her miserable town. Left alone or merely able to drift off mid-conversation for even a moment, Alma launches into intense daydreams in which whatever character is around her begins to seduce her. The film’s memorable opening scene features her lying on the floor with her pants down, listening to “Sex Telefon,” and from that image on, Alma’s reality is fully driven by where her hormone-filled mind is able to take her.

Though this is purely Alma’s story, her surrounding teens are given identifying personality traits that distinguish them from normal supporting movie friends. Her best friend writes letters to death row inmates in the United States, detailing the drama Alma is currently experiencing as if they might be interested, and begins a romance with the guy at the school who famously doesn’t shower or use deodorant. Another friend applies lip gloss slowly, routinely, and excessively, almost as if she’s hypnotized, and Alma’s crush Artur, broadcasts the blankest look on his face whenever he is asked any question. The characters are superb, and the story is told is a mesmerizing fashion, with black and white flashbacks populated with frozen frames narrated by Alma to explain either what is happening or what she might wish is happening. The film’s title, which has already been toned down from its festival title, “Turn Me On, Goddamit!” may deter audiences, but this is an altogether mature, endearing and enjoyable experience.


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