Dark, provocative and disturbing, the new film by Lukas Moodysson is definitely not for all tastes but solidifies his standing as the most interesting director working in Scandinavia today. The claustrophobic story about four people in an apartment, symbolizing the decline of Western civilization, is likely to face major censorship problems in several territories. Where released, the film will spark heated debate over both content and style. The film is yet another proof of Moodysson’s fearlessness and his willingness to push forward and break through the boundaries of convention.
Rickard (Thorsten Flinck) lives in a flat in Sweden with son Eric (Bjorn Almroth). A man whose life is on the decline, he shoots amateur porno films with his digital camera, and is starting a new one, starring his friend Geko (Goran Marjanovic’) and young Tess (Sanna Brading). “Hole” takes place over a couple of days during the shooting of the porno film. As the porn performers gradually lose their inhibitions, their behavior becomes increasingly disturbing, both toward the others and to themselves.
Meanwhile, Eric lies in his room with his headphones on, listening to music and trying to drown the sounds from the other room. Occasionally, he gets up and sneaks a peak, and when what’s happening is about to become really nasty, he intervenes.
“A Hole in My Heart” is a film not so much about story as moods, atmosphere and symbolism. At times, its use of sound and flickering images recalls films like “Eraserhead” and the symbolism of early Bunuel. From the beginning, there is a sense of dread and uneasiness, and this feeling only gets stronger by the minute until it feels like the film itself will explode.
Moodysson jumps back and forth in the narration, emphasizing what we have just seen with explosive sound-effects and unpalatable images of surgery, both pulmonary and gynecological.We see hands playing with dolls, putting them in sexual positions and finally tearing them to pieces.
The DV-camera is constantly on the move, getting uncomfortably close to faces and naked bodies. It is evident the actors trusted Moodysson, since they have let him come so close and reveal them in a not especially flattering light. The sex scenes are realistic enough to earn the film a certain NC-17-rating in the U.S., especially as the film contains full frontal nudity and sexually degrading language.
“A Hole in My Heart” can be seen as Moodysson’s attack on the porno industry. Rickard and Geko disturbingly treat Tess with contempt in word, deed and image. Later in the film, when things really start to get out of hand, the two men take target practice with an air-gun at the image of a headless magazine centerfold. It is a simple image of a world where men regard women as bodies without faces, subjected to violence at will.
In wider terms, this is also Moodysson’s view of the modern world, a powerful and pessimistic look at how, instead of using resources to the full, spiral down to disaster. Is there hope? Maybe. The film’s final line is “close your eyes and tell me what you see.”
Moodysson has been aided by four courageous actors. There was much speculation in Sweden about whether the collaboration between helmer and Flinck — a controversial actor/director whose bouts with hard drugs and violent behavior have been public news for years — could succeed. The answer is yes.
Flinck is excellent in a tough role that has the camera both getting into his mind and in close-up on his bare bottom. Brading, previously known from a popular TV soap, is fine as the girl who lets herself be exploited, and Marjanovic creates a sense of scary violence lingering just under the surface. Almroth is the only amateur among the four. His inexperience suits the part, since Eric is mostly the shy onlooker.
The faces of these four are the only ones shown on screen. When, in one of the few scenes that are shot outsider the apartment, Tess goes to a supermarket, all background faces have been digitally obscured. The same goes for a face on a painting in the apartment, as for every brand-name of every onscreen product, enhancing the claustrophobic effect of the film.