Turn Me On, Dammit! (review)

Turn Me On Dammit yellow light Helene Bergsholm

The cinemascape is so overcrowded with tales of teenaged boys’ sexual awakenings — of the rage of their adolescent horniness and the despair that it will ever be mollified, of the broad-spectrum suckitude of being no longer a child yet not quite an adult — that even the best of these films feel tired and obvious. Is there nothing new to say in an overplayed subgenre? Perhaps: Turn Me On, Dammit! (Få meg på, for faen) is almost shocking in how it depicts 15-year-old Alma’s all-consuming confusion, anxiety, and sexual desperation: with a candid carnality the likes of which is de rigueur for the horny-boy subgenre, but is entirely absent from film when it comes to depicting the trials of adolescent girls. (There simply is no such a thing as the horny-girl subgenre.) Thoughts are romance are not alien to Alma (played with a refreshing vulgarity by Helene Bergsholm) — she’s in love, from afar, with her schoolmate Artur (Matias Myren) — but it’s raw sex that rules her constant daydream fantasies, and it’s unquenchable need that drives her to the sort of masturbatory misadventures that the American Pie guys would recognize… but probably not approve of; girls and women this carnal are typically treated by Hollywood films as monsters or freaks, not the ordinary, unremarkable girl Alma is. This 2011 Norwegian film is the first narrative feature from documentary and short filmmaker Jannicke Systad Jacobsen (based on the novel by Olaug Nilssen), and has been rightly lauded at festivals; it won Best Screenplay at Tribeca and Best Debut Film at Rome. And yet — alas — it’s only the sheer novelty of its female protagonist and its acknowledgement of the authenticity of female adolescent sexuality that truly distinguishes it. In a just cinemascape that treated women as fully human and women’s lives as worth telling stories about, this would be yet one more tired, obvious film in an overplayed subgenre, because this would be yet one more female filmmaker telling us a story about her own adolescence (or near enough) as if being horny and thinking about sex constantly when you’re 15 were something unique or extraordinary.

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