Turn Me On, Dammit! Norwegian Jannicke Systad Jacobsen’s Feature

Skoddeheimen, Norway is a terrible place to be a teenager in Jannicke Systad Jacobsen’s impressive feature, Turn Me On, Dammit!

The protagonist is the unfortunate local girl, (Helen Bergsholm), who’s fifteen.  When her favorite boy, Artur (Matias Myren), awkwardly exposes his penis to her at a party—and she does not choose to keep the incident a secret—her life in this uninteresting, unfashionable hamlet goes from boring to hellish.

Alma is ostracized by all at her school—including her surly best friend, Sara (Malin Bjoerhovde)—while even the adults in town have nothing better to do than gossip about her impossible-to-conceal horniness. The only way out is to leave town, but can she ever get far enough away?

Although “Turn Me On, Dammit!” does not shy away from the intensity of both teen-on-teen cruelty and teen sexuality—Alma is often depicted masturbating, which is her greatest joy—this film somehow has the sweetness factor down pat.

Director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen’s sympathies are naturally with Alma, and the audience gradually starts to see things from the misunderstood girl’s fantasy-filled perspective, rooting for her to find some way to transcend her idiotic circumstances, to rise above Skoddeheimen.

All the actors are completely convincing. In addition to Bergsholm, Myren, and Bjoerhovde, all expertly cast, there are pitch-perfect performances from Beate Stoefring as Sara’s bitchy sister, who leads the charge against Alma, and Henriette Steenstrup as Alma’s perplexed, perhaps lonely mother.

Jacobsen, working with sharp cinematographer Marianne Bakke, creates a unique and indeed beautiful little world out of woodsy Skoddeheimen, from a bleak bus stop to the village market, where Alma winds up working. A sequence in the nearest big city of Oslo adds a smart contrast and break.

Small things speak to much larger things in Jacobsen’s economical script, which last year won the screenplay award at the Tribeca Film Festival. Sara’s sister’s obsession with lip-gloss betrays her pettiness borne of insecurity. An ever-present neighbor who lives next door to Alma and her mother becomes the very embodiment of small-town nosiness.

While some viewers may find Jacobsen’s neat conclusion to her tale less than true, her respect for all her characters, not just Alma, seems to be the point in the charming final minutes.

It is such a relief to see a film about teens that does not condescend to them—not even in the backhanded way that the “Twilight” movies and their like often do. And it is an even greater relief to see a film about teens that, while unafraid of how trying those years can be, is innately hopeful.

“Turn Me On, Dammit!” is all about, as Madonna once put it, “making it through the wilderness.”

 

Cast

Alma – Helene Bergsholm

Sara – Malin Bjoerhovde

Ingrid – Beate Stoefring

Artur – Matias Myren

Alma’s mother – Henriette Steenstrup

 

Credits

A New Yorker Films release.

Directed and written by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen.

Produced by Brede Hovland and Sigve Endresen.

Cinematography, Marianne Bakke.

Editing, Zaklina Stojcevska.

Original Music, Ginge Anvik.

 

Running time: 76 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

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