‘Turn Me On, Dammit!’ is an offbeat exploration of young love

Helene Bergsholm in 'Turn Me On, Dammit' — Photo courtesy of New Yorker Films

Alma (Helene Bergsholm) goes about her life in rural Norway with a constant yearning to break through her hometown’s restrictive prison bars. She leads a fairly boring life with her mother (Henriette Steenstrup), and her friends don’t quite understand her at school. The boy down the block — Artur, played by Matias Myren — pollutes her fantasies, but she’s unable to build a proper relationship with him in real life. Worst of all, Alma’s hormones are running rampant. She has sex on her mind at all times of the day, and increasingly she’s incapable of telling the difference between her dreams and reality.

Jannicke Systad Jacobsen’s quirky little film, which only runs 76 minutes, is an odd coming-of-age tale that relies heavily on its main character. If Alma weren’t so interesting, much of Turn Me On, Dammit! would be a slog. Many of these themes and characters have been seen before, but Bergsholm’s performance makes them feel fresh and vital. Watching this teenager deal with her out-of-control hormones can be quite funny, quite heartbreaking and quite revealing.

When Alma tells her friends about a strange sexual prank involving Artur, the girl finds herself met with cold shoulders and jokes around the hallways. Alma’s plans have backfired, and now her reputation has taken a seemingly irreparable hit.

The man she loves has totally forsaken her, and she’s left with a deepening sorrow that this Norwegian town is all that remains in life. No matter how hard she tries to feel “satisfied” — and in Jacobsen’s film, Alma tries very hard — this girl can’t make things better. She’s a victim of being a teenager with no idea of what comes next in life.

For some, the movie’s sexual frankness will be difficult to overcome. Alma and company are still in high school, but they parade around their town in search of anything (or anyone) who will satiate their desires. Many of the graphic scenes take place in Alma’s mind, where she is able to escape into herself and get away from this so-called community.

Jacobsen writes with a sardonic wit, but many of her characters feel like castoffs from a Jeffrey Eugenides novel (Turn Me On, Dammit! is based on a novel by Olaug Nilssen). They come across as real creations, and that’s in large part to the skilled ensemble, but at times they seem like constructs for the overall story. And with its short running time, many questions remain unanswered. Why is Alma so attracted to sexual satisfaction? What happened to her father? Why does such a young girl find joy (pain?) in adult fantasies?

With such an interesting main character, the audience is able to explore both the strengths and weaknesses of Turn Me On, Dammit! We’re transfixed for 76 minutes, but much like Alma, yearning for more.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Turn Me On, Dammit!

  • 2012

  • Written and directed by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen; based on the novel by Olaug Nilssen

  • Starring Helene Bergsholm, Henriette Steenstrup and Matias Myren

  • Running time: 76 minutes

  • Rating: ★★½☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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