As I stated recently in my theatrical review of John Waters' A Dirty Shame, I'm not easily offended when it comes to subject matter, be it violence or sexuality. I don't often consider walking out of a movie, because I always hold onto the hope that it can improve. Having said that, for the first time since the dreadful and disturbing The Wild Dogs â€" a Canadian film that bordered on pornography â€" I've never felt more uncomfortable sitting in a movie theatre as I did during a recent screening of Lukas Moodysson's A Hole in My Heart.
The plot line of the film is rather simplistic. Basically, a group of three friends decide to shoot an audition video tape to send out to Hollywood in hopes of becoming adult film stars. So these poor, ugly, and disturbed people gather in a rundown shack of an apartment somewhere in Sweden armed only with a large quantity of alcohol and condoms, along with a video camera. They are broke, so they figure that making money while exploring each other in and out is probably a good idea. What transpires is a mess of sexual experimentation while we as viewers are given occasional flashbacks as to the method, meaning, and the journey that led these two guys and one girl into the world of adult film.
A Hole in My Heart is the latest film from Sweden's Lukas Moodysson, a filmmaker who enjoyed critical success with Show Me Love (aka F*cking Ã…mÃ¥l) and most recently Lilya 4-Ever. This new effort is nowhere near the quality of the first two, and if not for the name being attached to the credits, one might hazard to guess that this wasn't his movie. Shot under wraps in Sweden on a low budget and using digital technology, the resulting picture (which debuted a little under two weeks ago in the filmmaker's home country) is a disturbing, messy, and downright unappealing motion picture. It appears Moodysson was trying to shock his audience and he does so with great success. The characters are terribly unlikable and unrelatable. They are downright scum of the earth, and by not being remotely interesting to the audience, we lose a much needed connection to them and begin to just not care about what happens. The film also is one of excess, and attempts to go for pure shock value for throwing in an almost nonstop barrage of grotesque images, including the most unsexy nudity ever seen on film and footage of a vaginal reconstruction surgery. If that's not enough for you, he throws in a sequence where a male character vomits into the mouth of the female, all of which is set to beautiful classical music in some sort of attempt to make this unspeakable event one of beauty and substance. I'm sorry, but there's no possible way for that practice to be anything but gross or just plain flat-out wrong.
In the press notes for the film, Moodysson talks about his intentions for the film to be a piece about the reality show craze currently taking over television channels throughout the world. The problem is that the movie really has no artistic value at all. The characters are despicable and the on-screen action is so disturbing and hard to take that within the first 5 or so minutes I was already physically ill and was thinking about ways to escape the fairly well-attended film festival screening. Somehow, I managed to stick with it for the entire running time, while my companions and friends around me nodded off to sleep during sizable portions of the film. I suppose I could have fallen asleep, but then if I woke up and the horrific images continued on the screen, I'd still be stuck in the nightmare. As it stands, A Hole in My Heart is one of the worst and sickest â€" in terms of content â€" movies I've seen in my entire life and one that I strongly feel didn't have any artistic value to it whatsoever. I'm not surprised with all the negative press the film received from Toronto and now Vancouver. There just is no reason for something to be this excessive and disturbing. Some people may applaud this film, but those that do should have their sanity questioned. Seriously, there's nothing redeemable about this movie. It's nothing more than a waste of film stock.
It should also be noted that shortly after the film screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival, it was picked up for theatrical distribution in the United States by Focus Features, which has a theatrical release deal with Odeon Films up here in Canada. I really can't see how this film could be released commercially. First of all, the content is sure to get it an NC-17 in the United States, so unless Focus springs to release it Unrated, it's all but done. Perhaps a short release in New York and Los Angeles and other more artistic markets, but really, that's about it. As for Canada, if the film opens wider than Toronto and maybe Vancouver, I'd be really surprised. It's just an unmarketable piece of filth that has no way of ever earning any money. I don't often give a ZERO rating, but in this case, it's well warranted. A Hole in My Heart is a film that left my entire party of 5 nauseous and one that, when I think about it, causes a knot in my stomach rather than "a hole in my heart".
A Hole in My Heart screened twice as part of the 23rd Annual Vancouver International Film Festival. The film has been picked up for theatrical distribution by Focus Features in the U.S. For more information about the film and the VIFF visit https://www.viff.org/.
Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with ShowbizMonkeys.com, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.