A Hole in My Heart

A Hole in My Heart (Ett Hål i mitt Hjärta) (2004)

A Hole in My Heart (Ett Hål i mitt Hjärta) first published by Movie Gazette, 26 May, 2005

Within the confines of a small suburban apartment, amateur director/producer Rickard (Thorsten Flinck) and his insecure friend Geko (Goren Marjanovic) are making a hardcore porn film with Tess (Sanna Bråding), who dreams of fame in Swedish television’s Big Brother, or at least in LA’s porn scene. Over the next 24 hours, the trio’s videotaped sexual scenarios turn into acts that are altogether more violent, degrading and extreme, exposing the jagged edges and inmost recesses not just of their bodies, but of their very souls. Meanwhile Rickard’s son Eric (Björn Almroth), a shy teenage goth, sits cocooned in the dark of his tiny bedroom with only his thoughts, dreams, fantasies and pet earthworms for company, trying to shut out the horror of what is happening on the other side of the door.

Lukas Moodysson‘s previous film, Lilya 4-Ever (2002), a grimly confronting portrayal of the dehumanising effects of child prostitution, has been championed as an educational tool by international organisations such as Amnesty International and UNICEF in their war against sex trafficking. In his latest, A Hole In My Heart, the Swedish writer/director turns his attention once again to, amongst other things, the evils of the sex industry – but this time he has constructed a film far too spikily experimental, and with a ‘message’ far too diffuse, to be of much ancillary use to campaigners against porn. 

It is not that Moodysson’s work has ceased to be driven by serious issues – indeed here his many targets include consumerism, misogyny, guns, violent video games, reality television, the cult of celebrity, plastic surgery and family breakdown – but the director’s artful array of alienation effects (jarring jumpcuts, chronological disjunctions, heavily distorted explosions of sound, subliminal images, a thoroughgoing confusion of dreams and reality), and his refusal to yield his film’s events to anything like a straightforward narrative, ensure that A Hole In My Heart will remain resistant to any easy appropriation or interpretation. Moodysson’s characters may repeatedly insist that what they do is ‘fun’, but this is no fun film – even if, like Moodysson’s earlier Together (2000), it ends with a family reintegrated and love restored.  

Moodysson pulls no punches in showing his four characters engaged in the most abject forms of behaviour – even the otherwise gentle Eric, when he is not tricking his father into drinking toilet water, is fantasising about shooting him in the head. Yet far from glibly demonising them, Moodysson instead roots their perversion in trauma, loss and longing, as each tries to find something to fill the gaping void in their heart. While some may find this humanist, psychoanalytic approach no less glib than demonisation, and somewhat reductive (do all people in the sex industry have troubled childhoods?) – and many no doubt will dismiss as mere shock tactics the graphic images of surgery which punctuate the film – those who make it all the way to the end may well find themselves strangely moved, as depravity gives way to a bleak sort of sentimentality, and there is a faint hope that the next day may be different from the last. For despite rge jarringly fractured narrative that bombards the senses, and the depravity that is somehow all the worse for being (mostly) consensual, there is a core of humanity that slowly emerges from all the squalor and perversion.

Strap: Lukas Moodysson’ domestic experiment is a difficult, not entirely rewarding film about boys, men, mothers, whores and everything in between.

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel