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Turn Me On, Goddammit (DVD)

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Actors: Helene Bergsholm, Malin Bjørhovde, Henriette Steenstrup / Directors: Jannicke Systad Jacobsen / Format: Dolby, PAL, Surround Sound / Language: Norwegian / Subtitles: English / Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 2.35:1 / Number of discs: 1 / Classification: 15 / Studio: Element Pictures / DVD Release Date: 25 Mar 2013 / Run Time: 75 minutes

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      03.07.2013 01:57
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      Not as bad as you'd first think...

      "Mountain. Empty road. More empty road. Empty road with a tractor. Sheep. Stupid sheep."

      Welcome to Skoddeheimen. Above are the highlights the remote rural Norwegian village has to offer, along with a youth club and a school bus. Well, perhaps there is more to it than that, but for fifteen-year-old Alma this is about as lively as her home-town gets. It's no wonder, then, that she spends most of the time complaining about it with her friends, sisters Sara and Ingrid. (Though, while Sara and Alma flip off Skoddeheiman's sign whenever their bus passes it, queen bee Ingrid doesn't think the town is so bad.)

      Sans friends and school, the rest of Alma's time is spent furiously masturbating on the kitchen floor while on the phone to Wild Wet Dreams, a phone sex service that she has already racked up over £900 worth of debt to. When her single mother discovers the phone bill and demands Alma get a job to pay for it, it's only the beginning of her problems.

      The object of Alma's fantasies is dream-boat, guitar-playing Artur. When he finally notices her at a youth club get-together, Alma is shocked, and even more so when he signifies his affection in a less than conventional way.

      Turn Me On, Goddammit! is a somewhat typical adolescent coming-of-age movie: it has angst, sexuality, friendships, betrayal, disillusionment and familial dissociation. However, Olaug Nilsser (author of the original novel the movie is an adaption of) and Jannicke Systad Jacobsen (screen-writer and director) have put a twist in the usual tried-and-true method by making the protagonist female. Alma isn't simpering and has no interest in waiting for true love to lose her virginity, which, in general, female adolescents in films tend to do. Like her male counterparts, she is at the mercy of her hormones and often lapses into bemused fantasies of everyone she sets her eyes on. She's a blabbermouth to boot.

      It's this big mouth of hers that gets her into trouble when she tells her friends that Artur prodded his penis against her thigh when they were outside at the youth club. Of course, things don't go to plan. Artur denies it, her friends turn against her, and Alma becomes a social pariah. Alma is pinned with a nickname that is at once tagged around the school toilet stalls and sung by little children who follow her home: Dick-Alma.

      Though seemingly a simple story, the cast certainly deserve their accolades for their performances in such an off-beat production. Helene Bergsholm (Alma) gives a seemingly effortless, ego-less performance, both in Alma's often tedious and aggravating home life and in her surreal, gleeful fantasies. Malin Bjørhovde (Sara) in her role is almost a second protagonist; Sara's struggle being an "alternative" person in such a closed-knit town is exemplified by the letters she writes to serial killers on death row, chronicling the events of Alma and Ingrid's feud along with the various events in her own life. Bjørhovde does not infuse her role with too much angst or drama, and indeed remains somewhat wry and disaffected the whole time. Beate Støfring (as Ingrid) is the perfect foil to Bjørhovde, being fleshy, blonde and playing Ingrid as a prim and snobby socialite - as much as one can be a socialite in Skoddeheiman. Though Støfring does not feature as heavily as Bergsholm and Bjørhovde, she plays Ingrid with aplomb, and even features in one of Alma's fantasies ably. Matias Myren (Artur) was, for the most part, hardly in it, though what acting I witnessed was good enough not to be a distraction. Meanwhile, Henriette Steenstrup as Alma's single mother was stood out to me, conveying the frazzled frustration of having a daughter she can't begin to understand. As an aside, everyone in the cast were first-time actors and were roughly the same age as their characters during filming. This is perhaps why the film feels, if not like a documentary, then certainly believable.

      Some European coming of age films are bizarre or depressing, so to have a relatively 'light' movie of this genre certainly appeals. Alma's fantasy segments are probably my favourite parts, along with her commentary over black and white stills, as the contrast between the Crime-Watch-esque reconstructions and the insignificance of the purported exchange is a sharp commentary about how everything seems so earth-shattering at that age. Though the film itself is humorous, it is more wry than laugh out loud.

      Cynics may suggest that perhaps the budget wouldn't have stretched that far. However, while the budget was obviously more limited than, say, the average Hollywood blockbuster, nothing, either in the sets or the acting, suggested cheapness. Overall, I would describe the film as refreshing; what an indie film should aim to be.

      If there is such a moral in this film, it is perhaps slightly different to what one would expect (no, not "masturbation is normal, healthy and ok"): that life goes on. Even when Alma is tormented at school, and her relationship with her mother seems irreversibly broken - even before that, in the deep-seated resentment of Skoddeheimen and longing to get away - she finds that there is always hope and a future beyond the town limits. An obvious lesson perhaps, but a valuable one nonetheless, especially at an age when you can't see the woods for the trees.

      Price (ATOR): £10.41 + FREE delivery (new & used)
      Language: Norwegian
      Subtitles: English
      Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 2.35:1
      Number of discs: 1
      Classification: 15
      Studio: Element Pictures
      DVD Release Date: 25 Mar 2013
      Run Time: 75 minutes

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