Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Hole in My Heart (Moodysson, 2004)

To hear it from most of the critics that have thus far reviewed A Hole in My Heart, Lukas Moodysson has lost his mind. Many of them wonder what on earth the undeniably talented director is doing mucking about in the world of amateur pornography. The answer is simple. He is doing exactly what a true artist should do: following his conscience and using whatever tools necessary to convey his message. Many of the images Moodysson employs are graphic and extremely unpleasant, but the underlying pain that he conveys through his characters and their oft-times chaotic interactions is genuine. Predictably, assessments of the film for the most part quickly degenerate into a catalogue of the more extreme moments taken out of context, as if there were no more artistry involved in the film than stringing together a series of sensationalistic moments. In actuality, A Hole in My Heart is much like a modern day version of No Exit, in which we, as viewers, witness a grotesque hell suffered by four characters that cannot escape each other. When reviewer Jon Popick wonders why young Eric, the moral conscience of the film that watches his father’s sexual exploits in misery, “didn’t bolt for the door like his pants were on fire,” he reveals his failure to grasp Moodysson’s mode of operation. It would be just as well to ask why the characters in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie don’t just finish their meal already. Eric’s entrapment is not physical; it's metaphorical. But that doesn’t make it any less real.

It would be easy to mistake Moodysson’s film for an assault on the amateur porn world. Indeed, it effectively depicts much of the frightening depravity that does exist in terms seldom, if ever, employed in films made by major directors. But, the film is much more than an expose of the way women are exploited and humanity is debased. Amateur pornography is not the film’s true subject matter; it merely serves as the milieu. The real topic that Moodysson is exploring with A Hole in My Heart is the same one that he has explored throughout the rest of his filmography: the individual searching for spiritual fulfillment in spite of the dysfunction and cruelty of contemporary society. Moodysson’s cast of four is remarkable in the way they are able to work free of inhibition and deliver honest performances that touch on the extremities of human experience. Moodysson playfully uses abrasive sound effects and abrupt shifts in chronology to keep the viewer in a constant state of intellectual attention. Although there are several images that would not be permitted on virtually any cable television station of which you can think, A Hole in My Heart is not like a Gaspar Noe film in which the viewer is emotionally battered into submission. Moodysson moves quickly and rarely allows one grotesquerie to remain for too long. We are immersed, not assaulted, and there is a deep existential sadness in these characters that have nothing to look forward to but the next sexual kink. If there is a weak point, it is in some of Eric’s speeches that register as high-school-goth whininess rather than legitimate philosophical yearning. Perhaps his naiveté is more realistic considering his unfortunate upbringing; but, it unfortunately means that the main source of resistance to the rest of the characters’ decadence occasionally comes across merely as half-hearted posturing.

Still, A Hole in My Heart confirms Moodysson’s position as one of the most exciting filmmakers alive and a risk taker with few rivals. I eagerly await to see where he dares to take us next.



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