A Hole in My Afternoon... Watching Lukas Moodysson's Grotesque Experimental Drama (2004) *
Updated: Jun 7, 2020
A Hole in My Heart - Rating: *
My third venture into the canon of Lukas Moodysson has seen me take a bold step forward, only to find a startling vertical drop below me. Having started mediocre with We Are the Best (2013) and following that up, reaching the surprising and pleasant peak of the mountain with the heart-warming, modern Swedish dramadey Together (2000), I thought Moodysson and myself had become something of an item.
You see, Swedish cinema is still rather fresh to me. Living with a couple of Swedes I felt it my duty to educate myself on their international cinema all with the intention of not liking it. I am very very stubborn. And I am very very stupid. Both these things are significant facts about me and my viewing habits. Quite the opposite happened when I started this particular cinematic adventure. I liked it. A lot. Proving both my stubbornness and stupidity.
With it's quirky humour, it's morbid tendencies and bleak imagery, much of Swedish cinema is very up my street. There's very little not to like and I am, myself, a European after all. All my other relationships with the other Swedish bigwigs, Ruben Östlund, Roy Andersson and the infamous Ingmar Bergman (My favourite of them all and getting an article from me very soon - but don't tell the others) to name a few, had gone rather swimmingly. Not smoothly I might add, but something of a strong bond was formed with these filmmakers.
And I thought Moodysson had broken through my steely, pessimistic exterior with the brilliantly told examinations of human relationships in a 1970's Swedish 'cult'. It was funny, entertaining and poignant all the while remaining humble. I thought we had something special, something different. Something even Bergman couldn't bring me; a Modern Swedish outlook on Sweden.
That tumble down the mountain was mighty. Falling and falling, hard and fast with each minute of the film, I began to contemplate where had we come from, Moodysson and I, and how far we had could have gone if not for such a dramatic turn of events. Because to be quiet frank, I hated A Hole in My Heart.
Three people in a dingy flat shoot an amateur porn film. They're all pretty gross. Watching from his room, the son of the filmmaker lurks. He's just as troubled, and just a little freaky. We open with the same son feeding his naked and sweaty father toilet water upon waking. Some interaction happens that suggests they loathe one another but some tragic event has lead them to this state of play.
Then our porn actors arrive. The men seem to be friends. Our porn star Tess, played by Sanna Bråding who is doing what she can with as much dignity as she can, seems to be passed around all of the men. At a later point in the film -when the men have decided the son needs a woman in his life, so said porn star must be up for making a man out of the youngster - the son and her begin to bond, within the shelter of his dark, messy bedroom covered with an assortment of grotesque things such as a set of monsters teeth and dirt. Lot's of dirt. He's a total edge-lord.
To be honest, I can't remember if the Porno ever gets finished. It seemed a bit of a process to complete for them with all the characters taking it in turns to freak out. On a real set they would have all been fired. I just felt quiet bad for Tess. A character with serious image problems and blatantly exploited by all the people she meets, I wanted her, desperately, to leave that stinking flat (So that I could leave). But she just showered there instead, then left for a bit, bought some food, came back and then was exploited with the food.
The film is shot and edited in a far more experimental way than the other two films I have watched of Moodysson's. But it feels more like an art students project than art house cinema. With grating sound design, night-vision camera effects, talking heads reciting nothing much at all, repulsive close ups of human bodies and barbie dolls re-enacting scenes for us (when they weren't being shoved into a flesh-light), it was all just too edgy for me. I suppose the only reaction I had of which the director, possibly, intended for me to have was an involuntary shudder to a labiaplasty but I can't see any artistic value of this in the film, or much of anything else. Because it didn't say very much in the end.
Some of his signature style was still there. It's something I've always have to adjust to after breaks in between his filmography, I have found. The crash zooms, the close-ups, the hand-held camera, the inorganic intimacy all takes me out of the moment for a little while. His technique draws attention to the camera and to the viewer. But this is a technique that probably should work best for A Hole in my Heart. 'Look at what you're watching, you viewer, you dirty bugger!' 'I know', I reply, 'and I keep waiting for it to get better!' It doesn't work because the film doesn't work. Not in the way Moodysson wants it to.
The film is disgusting but I've seen worse (Pink Flamingos (1972) and A Serbian Film (2010) win there). It's not as shocking as it thinks it is. It's just long and windy and re-treads the same ground over and over. And it's so boring. Once you've seen one act of self-mutilation and human debauchery, you've seen them all. And A Hole in My Heart tries to have as many as it can whilst also trying to end in three different places. Seriously, it could have ended forty minutes earlier.
In it's conclusion, it seems not to say to the viewer, 'look what you just watched, you are part of this now'. It tries to make us understand why these people are where they are now, and why. Our porn actor sobs on the grass outside the apartment building, dreaming of a field. Tess takes more showers. Everyone is horny and miserable.
Of course they are. That kind of is a message there. Only, I was too distracted by the flesh-light and the vomit-eating to really pity anyone in the end but our poor Tess. And even that's a bit of a stretch with her. If the film was shorter and more concise, perhaps the message Moodysson wanted to convey (whatever it was, I think I've proposed a few possible theories at this point) would have been stronger. But he went for the full 1hr and 38mins. And I hated it. I hated them.
But I don't hate Moodysson. Because I know he can do better. Maybe the next film I choose will catch me in my horrifying accelerated descent down the mountain-side. Maybe I should have started at the bottom of the mountain. Maybe I'll have to catch myself by being the gentle optimist I've always dreamed of being. But that's unlikely and so, Mr Moodyson, it is Show Me Love (1998) and Lilya 4-Eva (2002) that must save me from my tumultuous tumble. We shall see.