Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Turn Me On, Dammit!

I've seen lots of teen movies in my early years but I begin to watch them with a different eye now I'm getting older. Turn Me On, Dammit! by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen (adapted from a novel by Olaug Nilssen) is definitely not your typical teen movie dealing with the first pangs of love and sexuality. It is a really surprisingly thoughtful story, with a deep analysis of the female sexuality and an accurate description of the teenage boredom and anxiety. The story is quite simple. Alma is a young and simple girl living in a very boring small town in Norway. Unfortunately she is not a Black Metal fan but anyway. She spends her time hanging out with her two girl friends trying to convince some guys to buy them beer. She also has an extra activity that is going to get her into trouble; she masturbates on the phone calling a sex service number and (dirty) talking with a guy that she begins to know well. She also fantasizes about a real guy called Artur. However, her first real life sexual contact with him is going to be fatal (I'm not going to reveal everything) and, in the end, she will be considered as an outcast.


Alma and her best friend Saralou (what a beautiful name) are pretty much fed up with living in a small town and working dead-end jobs in small grocery stores. The dream for both of them is to escape from this boring life. Alma's dream is to go to Oslo. Saralou's older sister study there and Alma is very much inspired by her. Saralou's dream is to go to Texas where she wants to fight against death penalty. You can see how different their aspirations are. However, even when they talk about the future and what they want to do with their lives, they also talk about boys and love. What's better than yelling "Fuck Society" throwing some potatoes on the floor and admitting that you are in love with a weird guy just after it? This scene is a really good description of what a teenager thinks about. Everything is mixed inside their minds, between small pleasures and great aspirations. This is what I call the passion of the teen years. Something between anger, despair and love.

Regarding the sexual aspect of the movie, I would say that it is very realistic and crude. Female sexuality is not mystified or put on a pedestal. Alma clearly admits that she is horny and talks about it freely. She uses the real words to talk about sex and it is not done in a funny way, it's just the way it is! The problem does not come from her. The problem is among the people around her. Firstly, her mother is totally freaked out because of the sexuality of her daughter. She is disgusted because she hears her daughter masturbating. I think this is very well done in the movie. We gradually understand that the "noise" is a crucial notion. The mother would love to have a normal and generic mother/daughter relationship with Alma. She does not want to "hear" what her daughter has to say. She wants her to remain silent about her desires and everything that comes up to her mind. This way, we see that female sexuality is still something that needs to remain blur and private. If you put words on it, especially crude words, it becomes very complicated. Unfortunately, Alma is a not a quiet girl and her relationship with her mother is going to be affected by this freedom of speech.  Secondly, the other pupils are getting together to harass Alma after she dares talking about sex during a party (a sentence about her first and unsuccessful sexual contact with Artur, her boy crush). This sentence is going to be repeated so many times by all the pupils during the whole movie. Once again, the "noise" created by this shameful sentence is going to be directed against Alma, the girl who takes a stand.

Alma is not only obsessed by sex. She is also in love and she wants to go out with Artur. What is interesting in this movie is that all the sexual scenes are mainly based on waking dreams. And all the romantic scenes seem to come from sentimental novels. Since Alma is invisible (at the beginning) or rejected (after the turning point with Artur), it seems like she cannot really live anything for real whether it is love or sex (or both at the same time!). She is not understood by her fellows and this complicates her self fulfilment in any way. Talking about love, the very cute scene when Alma dresses up to go to see Artur and buys a brand new dress (to look "hot") is very interesting. It is the perfect counter point to the introduction scene when she dirty talks with a stranger on the phone. I think this movie is really good at representing the whole panel of emotions and behaviors of Alma. This is essential to understand that you cannot reduce someone to love or sex. Every single human is complex and has different sides composing the personality.

The secondary (yet very good) role of Saralou is really interesting. She is torn between "what the others would say" and "what she wants to do" during the whole movie. This depicts in a very accurate way the eternal dilemma of young people looking for the approbation of the mass. She has that very strong felling that she needs to help people in the death row in the US. She writes letters to them but she never sends them. Once again, the words, the noise, are sources of fear. She waits until the end of the movie, once the words become easier to pronounce to finally send the letters. Somebody that also helps her in being more confident and free is the guy she dates. Not the sexiest guy in the school but a nice weirdo. After all, she breaks the conventions and opens new areas of blossoming in the movie. I really want to see a spin off of the movie involving Saralou and her boyfriend!

All in all, this movie is much more than a teen movie. It is an ode to positive sexuality and also a very delicate movie about growing up in a static world. All the people surrounding Alma keep on repeating that "she's sick". It is like a leitmotiv. After all, we understand that they just represent the sheeps that Alma talks about at the beginning of the movie. It is a much overused image but still, it works. They are all together against Alma, the outcast, yelling the same rude comments and oppressing her. They are the blind people who cannot look forward because they are stuck in a single way of thinking. Alma, by breaking the rules of silence and refusing the politically correct norms, creates a fissure in her small close minded town. In that sense, I think this movie is utterly feminist in a sex positive way. Ok so I heard that this movie is not subversive enough, that it is not a surprise that young people think about sex... I understand this. However, I'd like to know how many teen movies you know directly involving a girl and not a boy putting his penis into a pie?! Not so many actually. So, I think it is a cool idea to watch it. It's only 1 hour and 10 minutes anyway :)

See you readers!

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