The Norwegian coming-of-age comedy Turn Me On, Dammit! tells the heartwarming story of a fifteen year old girl, her sexual awakening, and the trials and tribulations of becoming a teenager. Released in 2011, Jannicke Systad Jacobsen’s film was adapted from a novel of the same title written by Olaug Nilssen. The film centers on a girl named Alma, played by Helene Bergsholm, and her exploration of her sexuality, and it features well-known Norwegian actors such as Julia Schacht and Arthur Berning. However, though the movie won awards such as Best Screenplay at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and “Best European First Feature” at the 2012 Mons International Love Festival in Belgium, Turn Me On, Dammit! remains relatively unknown in the United States. (Please note that this is not the official website of Turn Me On, Dammit! We are fans of the movie looking to spread the word about it, and you can find more information on the movie here.)

Turn Me On, Dammit! is set in a fictional small town in Norway called Skoddeheimen. In the film, fifteen year old Alma experiences a sexual awakening during puberty, and to cope with her hormones, she calls sex hotlines and masturbates frequently and loudly while fantasizing about her crush, Artur (played by Matias Myren). However, after an embarrassing incident with Artur, she becomes ostracized and bullied by her peers at school, and her budding sexuality continues to get her into trouble with school, her mother, and her job. Throughout the movie, director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen aims to capture the teenage experience, even casting the film in a town reminiscent of where the film is set. Furthermore, many of the actors only saw the screenplay briefly before shooting in order to elicit a more organic approach. In Turn Me On, Dammit!, Jacobsen works to provide a raw and honest coming-of-age story from a female perspective.

Plot Summary of Turn Me On, Dammit!

The movie begins by introducing Alma, a fifteen year old girl living in the fictional town of Skoddeheimen, Norway. As a result of her new sexual awakening, Alma begins to regularly call phone sex hotlines and masturbate while fantasizing about her crush, Artur. Then, Alma attends a party with her friends, and while she is outside, Artur approaches her, exposing his erect penis and poking her with it. This thrills Alma, whom naturally retreats to a room to masturbate after the encounter. Once she rejoins her friends, she excitedly tells them about the encounter, but when her friends ask Artur about it, he denies the story. Alma quickly becomes ostracized for supposedly lying about the encounter, and her peers bully her with the nickname “Dick Alma.”

Alma’s troubles worsen when her mother (played by Henriette Steenstrup) discovers enormous expenses on her telephone bill and confronts Alma about calling a pay number. Alma confesses her sex hotline calls to her mother and admits that she patronizes it due to her hyper-sexuality, and she promises that she will pay her mother back for the charges. Alma therefore goes to work part-time at a convenience store, but the owner catches her stealing a pornographic magazine. As a result of the incident, the owner contacts Alma’s mother, whom replies that she views Alma as abnormal.

Hurt by her mother’s words and overwhelmed by bullying at school, Alma decides to briefly run away from home. However, when Alma returns, her mother welcomes her back, and she decides to confront Artur about the incident. When confronted, Artur confesses that he poked her with his penis, but he continues to deny sexual attraction to her. Eventually, Artur decides to make things right with Alma and publicly confirms the allegations that he poked her with his penis, and he then expresses his romantic interest in her. The bullying subsides, and Alma and Artur begin to become romantically involved. Alma then introduces Artur to her mother, and they eat dinner together.

Throughout the movie, Jacobsen illustrates the trials and tribulations of puberty through Alma’s misadventures as well as smaller subplots with her friends. Throughout the movie, Alma’s best friend, Sara (played by Malin Bjorhovde) writes innocent letters to death-row inmates in Texas to quell her teenage hormones. The film portrays an honest story of sexual awakening from the female perspective – a rare occurrence in many films.

Adapting the Book and Producing the Film

Director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen chose to adapt Olaug Nilssen’s novel because the story authentically described the teenage experience. This authenticity shines throughout the film, and is also what makes it stand out from the crowd, and amongst the other well-known films of its kind. The novel featured three stories, including Alma’s, and at first, Jacobsen tried to include all three stories in the movie. However, she found it difficult to do so seamlessly, and Alma’s story always stood out to her as particularly important and captivating. Jacobsen thus chose to focus on Alma. In the novel, Alma’s story is only forty-four pages long, and it begins when Alma announces Artur’s advance to her friends. Jacobsen thus added an introduction that drew viewers into Alma’s world, and she added miscellaneous details as needed to advance the plot and make the move interesting to viewers. However, throughout her writing process, Jacobsen aimed to stay as true to the book as possible.

Additionally, in order to make the movie as authentic as possible, Jacobsen worked heavily with Nilssen to ensure she accurately captured many of the details in the book. For example, because Nilssen based the town of Skoddeheimen on her hometown, Jacobsen visited Nilssen’s parents to tour the town, which enabled her to more accurately select filming locations. Jacobsen also casted the film with novice actors from these small towns, and she ensured they did not spend much time with the script to make the movie’s dialogue more authentic. Throughout this process, Jacobsen took great pain to ensure that the movie would authentically reflect the novel and the characters it represented.

Reception and Critical Acclaim

Despite its novice cast and risqué plotline, Turn Me On Dammit! received critical acclaim and numerous awards upon its release in 2011. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 93% approval rating and 7.3 out of 10 stars. The movie received positive reviews from publications such as The New York Times and The Globe and Mail, which describes the film as a “right-on depiction of female sexuality,” visually “lovely and precise,” and “dead honest.” Ben Walsh of The Independent states that the film is “droll and refreshingly honest,” and The Hollywood Reporter admired the movie for its “heartwarming, occasionally hilarious portrayal of one girl’s quest for satisfaction.”

The film also won the award for Best Screenplay at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival as well as multiple Amanda Awards from the Norwegian Film Institute in 2012, including Best Norwegian Film in Theatrical Release and Best Cinematography. At the 2011 International Rome Film Festival, Turn Me On, Dammit! won the Independent Distribution Award for Best Debut Film, and Variety chose Jannicke Systad Jacobsen as one of their Ten European Directors to Watch. Additionally, in 2012, the film won Best European First Feature at the Mons International Love Festival in Belgium, and in 2013, Jannicke Systad Jacobsen and Helene Bergsholm (Alma) won awards at William and Mary Film Festival in Virginia. The film was also featured in the Zurich Film Festival and Stockholm International Film Festival.

The film performed well in the Norwegian national box office, but it still remains relatively unknown in the United States. The film’s American release occurred in 2012 in New York City, and its release was limited to only a handful of cities and theaters. In 2013, the movie was released on Blu-Ray and DVD in the US and the UK.