The colossal failure of A Hole in My Heart is not entirely without precedent. After the spectacular one-two punch of Show Me Love and Together, two edgy but sentimental examinations of communal behavior, Lukas Moodysson set out to prove that he could also do feel-bad entertainment. Lilya 4-Ever wasn’t a total waste of celluloid: The setting and performances were genuinely convincing, but Moodysson’s lyrical aesthetic betrayed the life of its main character. In the same way he callously prodded Oksana Akinshina throughout that film, A Hole in My Heart it only content cattle-branding its audience with one grueling shock after another.
“It becomes as fatuous as a Christina Aguilera record,” said Armond White of Lilya 4-Ever, a telling observation considering that the pop star was Moodysson’s first choice for the role of Tess in A Hole in My Heart. I can’t imagine what could have turned Aguilera off about the script (assuming, that is, it ever reached her): that her snatch would have gotten more screen time than her face or that she would have had to induce vomiting using a toothbrush (that is, only after sticking a dildo in her ass and Frenching a dingy bathroom floor). But I digress. The story of a pasty teenager, Eric (Björn Almroth), who locks himself in his room while his dad and friend shoot an amateur porn in the adjacent room over the course of God knows how many days (or weeks, or months), A Hole in My Heart‘s non-stop spectacle of unmitigated repulsiveness is supposed to have something to say about broken families and the nature of celebrity, but I couldn’t glean exactly what that was amid the garbage intermittingly spliced into the story, from recreations of the narrative’s human tragedy by Action Man and Barbie figures and extreme close-ups of a vagina being surgically reconfigured, ostensibly for optimum fuckability.
A Hole in My Heart‘s closest precursor may not be Aguilera’s “Dirrty” video but Mark Romanek’s clip for Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.” From the off-kilter angles and color schemes to the night-vision confessionals, the film seems to borrow liberally from Romanek’s glossy aesthetic, except its three-room setting represents some kind of hardcore alternate universe to the basement Apple and her CK Be friends hang out in. But is it possible that Moodysson intends A Hole in My Heart as some sort of response to—or corrective for—“Criminal”? Romanek’s dirtying of Apple’s image and his abstracted shots of hot models are the means by which he studies the glorification of sex in the popular media. Moodysson, on the other hand, doesn’t use this borrowed aesthetic to study what’s on his plate; he’s just out to cause a scene. If Romanek’s critique isn’t exactly profoundly conveyed, unlike the considerably more trivial A Hole in My Heart, the video is still something you can’t take your eyes off of.