Hole In My Heart (2005): Lukas Moodyson’s Worst Film?

The mental and physical degradation inflicted on the characters in Lukas Moodyson’s “A Hole in My Heart” is also inflicted on the viewers, turning the film into one of the most excruciating and appalling experiences in a long time.

I caught the film last month in Argentina’s Mar del Plata Film Festival, and if the public screening I attended is any indication of the film’s potential appeal, then Moodyson is bound for a major disappointment. The showing had the largest walkout ratio I have seen in years, and this was a sympathetic festival audience.

After three interesting films, “Show Me Love,” “Together,” and “Lilya 4-Ever,” each vastly different in subject matter and style, Moodyson, Sweden’s brightest director, has made his worst film to date, one that has almost no redeeming qualities. In his fourth feature, the gifted director seems to be confusing the difference between making a provocative and disturbing film and one that’s simply irritating and noxious. In the name of realism Dogma-style, Moodyson goes for raw footage, but it’s shot and edited in a way that make the film shapeless.

The film is set in a dingy Swedish apartment, where Rickard (Thorsten Flinck) lives with his shy and awkward son Eric (Bjorn Almroth), a teenager who spends most of the time in bed, wearing headphones and listening to his music. Occasionally, he watches the antics of his father in the other room.

Rickard is in the process of preparing and shooting a porn movie with two performers: Tess (Sanna Bradin) and Geko (Goran Marjanovic). With the help of booze and heavy-duty drugs, they engage in sexual “games” that go from the abusive to the more abusive to the most abusive.

Neither erotic, nor voyeuristic or revelatory, “Hole in My Heart” is noxious and obnoxious, turning the making of the porn flick into a disgusting experience that will churn your stomach. Spinning out of control, the games played by the characters involve every imaginable form of abuse: verbal, physical, emotional, and mental.

There is frontal nudity and explicit hardcore sex, though every act is either preceded or followed by dolls engaged in the same function, giving the impression that Moodyson is more interested in the anatomy of genitalia than in sex or pornography. Toy soldiers penetrate plastic, chopped-up vaginas, and there are shots of Tess’ labia being sliced off and bleeding.

Tess is particularly degraded and victimized, suggesting that pornography does nothing but damage for women. The two men “experiment” on her with all kinds of exercises. At one point, Geko shoves such huge quantities of food into her mouth that she begins to vomit, which instead of making him stop encourages him to do some more. At the end of the vomiting sequence, the sight is so pathetic.

Periodically, the father takes a break from shooting and goes to visit Eric, and so does Tess, who interacts with him as both sympathetic friend and surrogate mother. Father and son try to bridge the communication gap between them, but to no avail. In the film’s dramatic climax, the timid son finally bursts out and accuses his dad of being a latent homosexual, choosing to do porn in order to be physically close to his male star.

In this story, not only the characters are miserably wretched, but the whole movie itself. Lacking balance or discipline, in this picture, Moodyson journeys into the darkest spot of the human heart. Indeed, “Hole in My Heart” seems to have been made by an angry filmmaker, but his ferocity is diffuse and it’s obliquely addressed at a wide range of issues as militarism, globalism, plastic surgery, pornography, sexual politics, familial relationships.

The trio seldom gets out of the dingy apartment, and they don’t interact with any other people. Their isolated lives are enclosed and consumed by their activities. Does Moodyson mean to suggest that, ironically, the home, usually a safe place, is the least secure and most corrosive place

For most of the time, “Hole in My Heart” stays at the level of the abyss, and by the time it suggests a ray of humanity, through Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion,” it’s too late. It may be an interesting idea to present a double feature of “Hole in My Heart” with Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights.” Whereas the former is angry, bleak, and degrading, the latter tries to and finds human and communal aspects in its group of porn practitioners.

The screenplay, which feels improvised, is credited to Moodyson, who wrote it in collaboration with his actors. Shot with a DVCam, the film is neither audacious nor inventive—it’s just excessively gross. Moodyson experiments with the aural cues, going from sequences that are silent or their sound is muffed to others in which hard rock is blasted in full-volume on the soundtrack.

With all the reservations I had about the French film “Irreversible,” in which a rape (of actress Monica Bellucci) was shown in utmost graphic detail and in real time (about 9 minutes), they don’t begin to approximate the feelings generated by “Hole on My Heart.”

At the end of “Hole in My Heart,” which is short (97 minutes) but feels much longer, you don’t feel you have witnessed anything new or controversial; youre just relieved that the excruciating experience is over.