Today: July 12, 2024

Turn Me On, Goddammit

By Louis Trythall

Jannicke Systad Jacobsen’s debut feature Turn Me On, Goddammit begins abruptly with a voiceover. “Empty road. More empty road. Empty road with tractor. Mailboxes. House with satellite dish. Youth centre backyard. Stupid sheep. Stupid hay bales. Stupid trampoline girls. Welcome to Skoddeheimen” teen protagonist Alma (Helene Bergsholm) sardonically narrates. It is a sequence that wastes little time establishing the geographical locale of the narrative; and wastes even less time establishing Alma’s discontent for her life there.

Beyond her best friend Sara (Malin Bjørhovde), the single olive branch of hope in Alma’s life comes in the shape of  Artur (Matias Myren), the boy of her dreams (in an all too literal sense). Alma positions Artur at the heart of her many sexual fantasies throughout the film – even as her feelings towards him begin to conflict, inside this helix of teen angst. Jacobsen uses these fantasies to playfully disrupt the narrative flow – the sometimes jarring, unreality of these sequences lending a quirky, oddball humour to the film.

The most significant moment in Turn Me On, Goddammit‘s narrative first act, comes in the party that Alma, Sara, Ingrid (Beate Støfring) and Artur attend. Following an awkward encounter between Alma and Artur, and a subsequent falling out with Ingrid, Alma finds herself cast out by her friends, her classmates, and even by Artur. From this point onwards, Alma cuts an increasingly forlorn silhouette – Skoddeheimen’s geographic remoteness compounded by a fresh layer of more literal loneliness.

Whilst tonally worlds apart, the juxtaposition of fantasy and the reality in Turn Me On, Goddammit loosely echoes 2009 sleeper hit (500) Days of Summer. Alma’s sweet, innocent daydreams over would-be lover Artur, clash against spiralling phone sex bills, porn magazine theft, and most pertinently, the way Artur actually makes her feel. The somewhat naive,  idealised interpretations of love and romance, wrestle against Alma’s raging hormones and sexual fantasies – the latter, more often than not, overshadowing the former. Yet, in spite of Alma’s mother (Henriette Steenstrup) and prying neighbour Magda’s (Hilde-Gunn Ommedal) concern, there’s a sense that these lucid fantasies are as much  a way of punctuating the monotony of life in Skoddeheimen, as any kind of sexual preoccupation.  Skoddeheimen, after all, is a place so hated by Alma and Sara, even its sign calls for a ritualistic flipping of the finger every time it is passed.

Turn Me On, Godddammit is not a film concerned with grand narrative or character arcs. In small ways, we see friendships change, relationships evolve, but Jacobsen deserves greatest credit for simply allowing her characters to grow and mature so naturally onscreen. Shimmering with understated charm, humour and honesty, Turn Me On, Goddammit is an undeniably impressive debut. In little over 75 minutes, Jacobsen constructs a beautifully restrained, coming of age meditation on teen sexuality – deftly capturing the desire and awkwardness of one’s first love with Polaroid accuracy.  Tender, but never laboured, on this evidence, there is little doubting that Jacobsen is a name to watch out for.

Rating: 4/5

Cast:  Helene Begsholm, Malin Bjørhovde, Henriette Steenstrup

Director: Jannicke Systad Jacobsen

Plot: Set in the remote hinterlands of Norway, 15-year-old Alma is bored, and consumed by hormones and sexual fantasies. Until an incident at a party leaves her more alone than ever.

Running Time: 75 minutes

BBFC Certificate: 15

Country of Origin: Norway

Release Date (DVD): 25 March, 2013

Genre: Comedy, Indie

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