Teenage Alma takes on all of the taboos of Western sexuality in this delightful coming-of-age fairytale.
Awarded “Best Screenplay” at the Tribeca Film Festival 2011, “Independent Distribution Award for Best Debut Film” at the International Rome Film Festival 2011 and Best European First Feature at the Mons International Love Festival (Belgium) in 2012, Jannicke Jacobsen’s debut directorial effort is as quirky as it gets. Starring Helene Bergsholm as 15-year-old Alma, bright and fresh as the Norwegian spring itself, “Turn Me On” takes on several modern taboos with humor and understanding. The result is that both adults and teens get a much-needed chance to look at, and laugh at, themselves.
Olaug Nilssen’s novel “Turn Me On, Dammit” is a book of three stories about three different women. Writer/director Jacobsen chose to focus on the story of Alma (Helene Bergsholm), the hero of the second of the three stories. All three stories deal with the struggle of being recognized in a world that has entirely too much information to begin with. When information is expanding exponentially the identity of a small town teenage girl falls very low on the list of priorities for recognition.
Every day Alma and her best friend Sara (Malin Bjørhovde) take the bus to school together. When they pass the sign making the entrance to their small Norwegian town they both flip off the sign in a joint enthusiastic gesture of mutual loathing for what they see as their entrapment and their subservience.
The two share a common goal, the goal of being somebody and, yes, being noticed. In conjunction with Alma’s coming-of-age obsessions getting noticed means being noticed by a boy. This is not new in the world of adolescence but it is the way she does it that finally makes her a success in the international competition to be noticed.
For the first twenty minutes of the film, Alma seems to have a combination of Tourette’s syndrome and a fetal frontal lobe disability. In short, she will do and say almost anything related to her adolescent libido running amok. She runs up hundreds of dollars in pornographic phone bills without thinking for a moment that her beleaguered mother (Norwegian actress/comedienne Henriette Steenstrup) will notice. Mom must put in earplugs to shut out the racket of Alma’s Olympian self-gratification.
When the big day comes and her target, Artur (Matias Myren) is in her sights she arranges a private meeting for the purposes of consummating their relationship. Or, at least, consummating a plan to begin a process of consummating what could be interpreted as a relationship. Artur complies in the time-tested manner of a teenage boy.
When Alma kisses and tells, Artur, of all people, claims plausible denial. The rest of the film sees Alma giving up everything she has in her small town (which is not much) in an attempt to assert that Artur has, indeed, done the deed. Or, at least, that he has something that could be interpreted as the deed or could grow into the deed with the right spin.
This delightful, ultimately lighthearted look at the taboo completely turns the tables on the male/female stereotypes of present day courtship. In this story the girl, maturing first, takes the sexual lead and tramples on the taboo subject of burgeoning female sexuality.
She does not deny her own identity as a loose woman. Instead, she demands that Artur join her in the unholy matrimony of mutual looseness as proclaimed by the power vested in the teenage community. In so doing, she claims her right to be noticed even at the expense of the alienation of the entire community.
Alma’s actions at first alienate her friends so severely they will not even acknowledge her presence on the campus. The only person who will talk to her is the phone sex operator, Stig (voiced by Per Kjerstad) who comes to her as the voice of truth and freedom from beyond the iron curtain of fog and fiords that make up Alma’s world. In the end, she becomes the leader of the charge for sexual self-recognition and even her mother is forced to form up in the ranks.
This movie is little more than a capsule description of the novel that appears to be the Genesis and Exodus of humanization in a dehumanizing world. See the film, first, and seriously think about reading the book.
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Directed and Written by: Jannicke Systad Jacobsen, based on the novel by Olaug Nilssen
Starring: Helene Bergsholm, Malin Bjørhovde and Henriette Steenstrup
Release Date: March 30, 2012
MPAA: Not rated
Running Time: 76 Minutes
Language: Norwegian w/English subtitles