Like Lars Von Trier, Swedish director Lukas Moodysson has a reputation for producing challenging, distinctly left field art house films which attempt to address social issues through a variety of original and often quite obtuse techniques. As such, his films (which include the massive commercial hit “Together” and the grueling “Lilya 4 Ever”) are often controversial affairs, and “A Hole in my Heart”, Moodysson’s latest offering, is no different, being a claustrophobic and at times grotesque exploration of the dregs of the home porn industry. The film, which comes complete with graphic sex and surgery, has sharply divided critics, causing a great many of Moodysson’s admirers to all but disown the once darling of the world cinema scene. At the same time, others have hailed it a masterpiece, a post-modern exploration of the pursuit of satisfaction and identity in an amoral and uncaring world.
The film takes place mainly in a grubby apartment, where Rikcard (Thorsten Flinck) and his friend Geko (Goran Marjanovic) are filming a zero-budget movie with an uninhibited young woman named Tess (Sanna Brading). The trio is watched by Eric (BjÃ¶rn Almroth), Rickard’s creepy teenage son, who fantasizes about Tess whilst muttering darkly and making bizarre contraptions out of wires and electrical equipment. As the film progresses, personal problems come to the fore and relationships between the characters are strained through a series of revelations and some shocking scenes of abuse.
It is clear from the first few scenes of “A Hole in my Heart”, which consist of close up shots of genitalia and surgery, lovingly accompanied by screeches of ear-splitting industrial noise, that it is unlikely to be an easy ride. The film is filled with similar inserts, which are often thrown in at unexpected intervals, a technique which keeps the viewer on edge throughout, and creates an uneasy, tense atmosphere. The soundtrack jumps in and out, ranging from classical music to indecipherable shrieks, and the director uses them to underscore some of the film’s more disturbing scenes.
Moodysson shoots the no-budget film on DV, giving it an uncomfortably realistic, reality TV-style feel. This gives the viewer the unsettling, vaguely guilty feeling of voyeurism, as if actually sitting in on the shameful proceedings. Through this direct accusation of culpability, Moodysson forces the viewer to examine exactly how far they are willing to go, and so the film at times takes on a distinctly confrontational air. At the same time, he shies away from passing any judgment on the film’s characters, and fleshes them out (often through mock interviews and confessionals) to prevent them from becoming mere stereotypes or cheap mouthpieces for nihilism.
“A Hole in my Heart” is a strange film in that it is both depressing and strangely uplifting. Although the characters are, according to their often despicable actions at least, bottom feeders, they are all too aware of their place in society, and are at least relatively devoid of illusion in their pursuit sensation and celebrity. Through this, Moodysson manages to make a film which, while quite determinedly unemotional, still contains scenes which quite effectively comment on the human condition and raise some interesting philosophical questions.
The film does feature some extremely graphic footage, and it is this which both underlines the director’s themes and threatens to drown them with their at times clumsy application. Containing actual scenes of labial reshapement surgery and anal penetration to name but two of the onscreen outrages, it is at times hard to take the film as anything more than mere shock tactic cinema. Viewers lured in by the potentially sleazy subject matter will doubtless be disappointed, as the film is about as far from being titillating as it is possible to get.
As such, it is a little hard to decide what to make of “A Hole in my Heart”, being too unpleasant and deliberately offensive for the would-be intelligentsia, yet too offbeat and cerebral for the average viewer. It is certainly worth watching for those brave enough and willing to make the effort, offering a fierce and unforgiving look at the baser urges of modern humanity. Ultimately, the film is probably destined to be kept at arms length by most, as Moodysson goes a little too far, not so much in terms of content, but in implicating the viewer in the nauseating action.
Lukas Moodysson (director) / Lukas Moodysson (screenplay)
CAST: Thorsten Flinck …. Rickard
BjÃ¶rn Almroth …. Eric
Sanna Brading …. Tess
Goran Marjanovic …. Geko