Review: A Hole in My Heart

Tess in A Hole in My Heart
What is it about a “film” that can distinguish it from “pornography”? What is the difference between acting and exploiting? After seeing A Hole in My Heart, I’ve been doing some serious thinking about these ideas.

When he introduced the film, the SIFF guy made a comment like, “It’s always nice to see an audience challenged.” This movie certainly challenged its audience. I wonder what it is about filmgoers that makes us want to be challenged in such ways. There is no complex way of putting this: A Hole in My Heart was gross and disturbing… but I liked it.

The movie sort of reminded me of Lies. The most basic explanation of the movie is, like Lies, people become consumed with their sexuality and feel the need to push the limits in order to achieve more interesting pleasure.

A Hole in My Heart follows four people: Rickard, Eric, Tess, and Geko. Rickard creates/films porno films staring Tess and Geko (sometimes he participates). Eric is Rickard’s shut-in, gothic son who basically spends the entire movie in his room.

There isn’t too much of a plot with this film. It’s more like a series of episodic moments. For example, I thought the climax of the movie might have been when Geko complains about the smell of Tess’ pussy (behind her back — which is what pisses her off) and Tess packs her things and storms off. I figure Rickard and Geko will be forced to come to terms with their behavior and somehow change. Nope. Instead, Rickard and Geko turn their abuse to Eric (forcing him to shoot airguns — at the tits and pussy of a poster of a naked woman). Tess returns shortly thereafter (with food!!) and the insanity continues.

The movie is extremely claustrophobic. Basically everything happens within the confines of the apartment. The two or three scenes that don’t happen in the apartment feel really strange.

The camerawork is very experimental/artistic. Many of the scenes (especially those taped during the taping of a porno) are very shaky and handheld. Digital perhaps? The decision makes sense, of course, since it captures the really raw aspect of what happens. There are also some scenes shot with a night vision camera (green skin, beady eyes a la Paris Hilton included!) that feel like some sort of confession. Another interesting camera technique to note is the selective blurring. Like a reality show, brand names and whatnot are often blurred… but there are also a few scenes when the peoples faces (both strangers and the main characters) are blurred as well. This is very unsettling and it seems rather profound, so I wanted to mention it.

The best (technically) aspect of the film is the sound design. The movie, obviously, is pretty uncomfortable. The sound really reinforces this with loud screeching noises a la David Lynch’s Lost Highway. There is also lots of feedback and distortion -type noises throughout the film. It also seems that the “music” Eric listens to is nothing but abstract, noisy soundscapes. More than a few times I could’ve sworn that the noises were sampled from Primal Scream’s XTRMTR album, in fact.

As for the taboos this film addresses, there are plenty: pubic hair shaving, overweight and hairy men having sex, vomit, piss, threesomes, rape scenes/gangbangs, latent homosexuality, incest, body odors, and on and on. There is also some underlying theme dealing with bodily modification and there are quite a few cut-ins of random surgeries that are really interesting — they look so visceral and gross. It’s weird.

A final aspect I need to mention is the anti-misogyny of the film. Rickard and Geko are obviously misogynist and treat Tess horribly. There is a “pseudo”-rape scene that is brutal to watch. Basically Rickard and Geko decide to “rape” Tess without letting her know. It’s the most difficult part of the film, I think, and it’s obvious that the filmmaker is trying to show the evilness of men. Likewise, there is a particularly memorable scene where Eric makes a statement to the effect of:

What do the sickest people, rapists, and people who start wars all have in common? They are all men.

I have to say, I agree, and I wonder if that is maybe one of the larger themes of the film?

Overall, I gave this movie 3/5. I wanted to give it a 4, but in the end it felt more like a shocking-for-shocks-sake art film. I wasn’t quite sure what the director was trying to say. If he just wanted me to think things over, then I guess he succeeded, but I’m guessing there was more going on — it was just too oblique for me to know.

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