Clermont Review: Hot Nasty Teen

With such films as Killing The Chickens To Scare The Monkeys (Dir. Jens Assur, Sweden, 2011) and A Society (Dir. Jens Assur, Sweden, 2012), director Jens Assur has often taken a bold, provocative and slightly experimental approach to telling stories with a social consciousness. His latest film Hot Nasty Teen (Dir. Jens Assur, Sweden, 2014) - screened in International Competition at this year's Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival - takes a more traditional approach to narrative than his previous films as it explores a murky and disturbing world of exploitation.

The film begins with a 15-year-old Alva (or Destiny as she prefers to be known) - being filmed by an older man in his 50s. He asks her questions about her favourite music in a moment of disturbing forced intimacy the sets the tone for the rest of the film. A few months later they are travelling across Sweden by car, as Alva is introduced to his ‘friends’ – equally as old as him – who use her for sex. Keeping her squirrelled away from the public he becomes her de facto pimp as he leads a double life of quiet domesticity and seedy depravity. As Alva’s situation becomes even more degrading, she begins to wonder how she will get out of what she has found herself in. Soon things come to a disturbing conclusion.

This dour piece is reminiscent of the work of Lukas Moodyson as it explores both the exploitation of teenagers as well as power relationships between different generations. It’s a provocative film, with Alva’s situations shown in sometimes disturbing detail. One moment sees her visit a hotel room in which a group of old men sit around, wearing dishevelled bath robes as they watch her slowly undress. It’s a stark scene, full of washed out colours and ugly design. It’s juxtaposed with the quiet domesticity of Alva’s abusers , the warm comforts of home and family at odds with the terrible acts we’re witnessing. Indeed the title ‘Hot Nasty Teen’ is not only a provocation for the audience but also a comment on the often glossy, idealised world of pornography that is in stark contrast to the seedy reality.

Aside from Assur’s strong direction – with many shots being static and cold tableaux – the central performances are well done with lead actors Brasse Brännström and Fanny Ketter managing to be compelling screen presences.

There are a few moments that don’t quite work – while the film tries to convincingly explore the power relationship between the two, there are a few nagging unanswered questions (such as how they became involved on the first place) that hang in the air. Also the ending is somewhat unconvincing, with Alva’s calculated bid to take control of her situation seemingly appearing more out of thriller territory.

The film’s disturbing nature will find itself a tough sell for film festivals – especially when one considers that the film has a run time of 40 minutes. But with Jens Assur’s previous track record it should still attract some interest and – some flaws aside – it remains a powerful piece of work.

05 February 2015, by Laurence Boyce