Exploring People as Products in a Meta-Film, Lukas Moodysson on “A Hole In My Heart”
by Liza Bear
In Lukas Moodysson‘s fourth film, “A Hole in My Heart,” teenage Eric [Bjorn Almroth] alone in his bedroom with his pet worms, clamps his headphones tightly to drown out the squelches, thumps and groans from the living room next door. That’s where his dad, Rickard [Thorsten Flinck] is attempting to shoot a hardcore gross out porn flick with his mate Geko [Goran Marjanovic] and porn star wannabe Tess [Sanna Brading]. Occasionally Eric peaks through the door, and once he halts some particularly violent act from taking place. That may be the p.o.v of many viewers.
Whether it’s possible since Abu Ghraib to be genuinely shocked by images in a fiction film is a moot point. But Moodysson’s surreal imagery of degradation and original, visual style, with deliberately jarring edits and use of nighshot footage, plays within the context of an essentially character-driven movie. These characters express some modicum of concern for each other when they are off camera from their own filmmaking. [Eric even lends Tess his earphones sharing industrial music with her, and tells her his earthworms’ names.]
While much less dramatically developed than “Lilja 4-ever,” Moodysson’s “A Hole in My Heart” nevertheless builds emotionally, using a chorale from St. Matthew Passion as a kind of final lament, if not catharsis.
Liza Bear spoke with Lukas Moodysson last week while he was in town being honored for his four films [“Fucking Amal,” “Together,” “Lilja 4-ever,” as well as this one] by the Film Society of Lincoln Center in a series on New Swedish Cinema. “A Hole in My Heart” opens exclusively at Cinema Village in New York today (Friday).
indieWIRE: Your film “Together” was about left-wing communes; what about “Terrorists”?
Lukas Moodysson: “Terrorists” was a documentary about riots in Gothenburg when President Bush was there. “Together” is a fiction film about communes set in the 70s. It’s about people who share a big house.
iW: I find [pornography] difficult to watch, but nevertheless the human relationships between the characters in your film are often surprisingly warm and humorous.
LM: Not everyone sees that warmth. But I only make films about people that I really like and care about.
iW: How did you get actors to play these roles?
LM: Goran Marjamovic [Geko] is a very famous actor and theatre director in Sweden. But he hasn’t really had any lead roles in film. And Sanna Brading [Tess] is also well-known in Sweden in soap opera, so people were quite shocked because she has a completely different image.
iW: A sort of calendar girl image.
LM: I think she liked that very much, to fool everybody.
iW: With such extreme scenes, isn’t there a big problem getting people to understand what you’re after here?
LM: There’s a dangerous tendency in our culture that everything should be easy to understand. This film has been misunderstood in every possible way. And that’s fine with me. I don’t see it as my job to unite audiences but more to divide them.
iW: Visually, your film has a slightly surreal look to it. Were you specially concerned about the lighting and cinematography?
LM: I didn’t really have a plan about how the film should look. I always try to go deep into a river where new things float to the surface… This was the first time I shot… I was one of the two DV cinematographers. We locked ourselves into a few apartments in a small suburban town with tall buildings in west Sweden. It’s an old industrial city — they still make SAAB cars there. But now it’s become a sort of film town because it got regional funding from the European Union.
iW: Very claustrophobic.
LM: Yes but we were neighbors to the set. We’d sit down and have dinner, then say, let’s film a bit more. We’d open the door to the flat next to us and start shooting. So we were in a strange bubble. We had a lot of fun making it. It was my simplest shoot so far.
iW: The relationship that interests me the most is the one between Eric and his father — mutually caring but frustrated.
LM: This was Bjorn Almroth’s first role. He was 17 and still in school when we made the film. He had this strange silent energy.
iW: And very reproachful of what’s going on. What triggered the film is the fact that, because of the internet, the porn industry itself is now bigger than Hollywood or the music industry.
LM: Yeah, that was one line of thinking. Not THE line though. I’m reacting intuitively to… Something is being thrown at me, and I’m throwing it back. In “Lilja 4-ever” I more precisely criticize a political system, because in the most perverse stage of capitalism human beings are being sold and bought. But in this film I’m interested more in people as products, not necessarily of an economic system, but of western culture, because the film doesn’t really discuss the economic background of the characters.
iW: It’s more about personal abuse.
LM: My intentions may be stupid but when I make films I become smarter than I am in real life. Something is pushing me to do one thing and not another. I used to think it was God but now I’m not sure.
iW: God gets a pretty bad rap these days.
LM: Yeah, in some parts of the world. Okay, but yes, the film’s also about filmmaking. How you as a filmmaker want to get closer and closer to something. Sadly, I identified quite a lot with the father in the film, pushing his actors further and further. When he tells his actors to “make it look real,” that line’s taken from me. It’s very much a meta-film in one way. It’s also about the past continuing in the present. For example: during the shoot I was writing new scenes over breakfast. I was writing on a German typewriter from the 30s, from the Nazi period. I had this very strong feeling that everyone who’s been writing on this typewriter had left something of themselves in the typewriter…. that I would pass on to my characters.
iW: Were the anatomical shots imported from porn or medical films?
LM: No. For Tess’s sexual reconstruction surgery. We were going to look for medical stock footage. Then I said, let’s call a plastic surgeon and see if It’s okay to film one of his operations.
iW: What about the patient herself?
LM: Wait: the first surgeon we called said OK, but he’d have to ask the patient. The first patient he asked said yes. No problem. So that says something about the culture we live in. They even wanted to be mentioned in the credits. Although the girl didn’t want to use her last name.
iW: I liked the scene in which Eric talks about his pet worms each having its own personality.
LM: When I was a child I wanted to be a surgeon I’ve always had an interest in dissection. Cutting things up and looking inside. Now I have three young children. The two boys are here with me, we’re going to buy dinosaur skeletons on Spring Street.
iW: Is your wife in the movie business?
LM: No. She does cartoons. We’re doing a book together right now. I started out as a poet and the writing will be closer to poetry. We live in Malmo in southern Sweden where I grew up.
iW: This seems like a really serious film for you.
LM: Yes, it a film that’s very close to my feelings but it’s not in any way autobiographical. It’s not like I make porn movies in my living room.
iW: The film’s only opening in one theater in New York. Nowhere else in the country.
LM: It’s a strange and difficult film. Some of the greatest films I’ve seen were films I hated when I first saw them. Even films I fell asleep to. But they crawled into my head and stayed there.