UK DVD release date: January 2011
Running time: 93 mins
Director: Stian Kristiansen
Starring: Rolf Kristian Larsen, Ida Elise Broch, Arthur Berning
UK distributor: TLA releasing
A high school coming of age tale is well trodden group but a coming of age story coming out of Norway could pretty much be anything. Stories of school classes climbing trees in forests and being forced to drink copious amounts of beer, before they’re allowed down during the graduation period, are a favourite recollection from time spent with Norwegian friends in the past.
The Man who loved Yngve is not that film, rather it introduces us to Jarle (Rolf Kristian Larsen), a young man with a love of music, Katrine and very little else in his sparse, cold corner of Norway. Jump forward six months from skipping a school history trip and he has everything a young male could possibly want. Cool friends, a beautiful girlfriend and is the front man in the Mathias Rust Band but all this is fleeting as Jarle’s world is about to be introduced to the new boy in school and the surprising object of his affections, Yngve.
This is a film that is surprisingly void of cliché.
Set in 1989 during the height of the aids epidemic there is always the danger of falling back and relaxing on stereotypes to tell you talk. Such is the strength of Stian Kristiansen’s vision and the intelligence of Tore Renberg’s screenplay (which he adapted from his own novel) that this film is never likely to fall into that trap. The love triangle between Jarle, Katrine and Yngve is never overly forced into unnatural narrative scenarios but is allowed to flow naturally between the classroom and the tennis court. Larsen is excellent as Jarle both as the care free boy who’s got the girl at the beginning of the film and gradually through to confused but curious admirer of Yngve to openly, at least to himself, infatuated teen. His ability to be openly smitten by the new boy yet wearing his normality with friends and girlfriend alike is a skill not yet mastered by actors twice his age. Ida Elise Broch (Katrine) is under utilised but represents the “gold standard” of the dreams of every teenage boy in her role as beautiful and sexually active girlfriend / band manager. Yngve (Ole Christoffer Ertvag) has quite a similar job to that of Ida Broch in that he’s given little more to do but been a teenage honey trap for Jarle, but yet it works as ultimately this is his tale, his decisions and ultimately his life that he is in the process of defining. Arthur Berning as best friend Helge gives a strong supporting performance as the alpha male of the group and most likely the most difficult person Jarle will have to come out to should he decide his future lays with Yngve.
The score is a dream, a strong collection of credible tracks from the 80’s and contemporary works that sit beautifully together and most importantly have a strong sense of the character and the influences that a young aspiring musician in Norway during the Cold War decade would have.
The film is not without a sense of humour, something that can be missing in films grounded in such serious issues as sexually and relationships but fortunately the director has remembered that boys (regardless of sexual orientation) will be boys. Helge’s utter distain at his best friend taking up tennis is something that will make you laugh before you can fully take in just how dark that statement is given the time period. Likewise the scene where the best friends venture out to purchase weed from a drug dealer who has managed to break both arms and is in desperate need of someone to help him tidy up after a bowel movement is distinctly Norwegian humour.
The cinematography does an excellent job of depicting were Jarle’s attentions are directed and his desires swinging without being overly showy or self aware, which is good as the rest of the film is so silently mature that flashy or overly stylistic cinematography would simply detract from the film.
The strongest thing about the film is the last twenty minutes, which is not a criticism of the first hour and ten minutes but as the film progresses and Jarle’s choice become more and more limited the film naturally ascends to several large scenes. The exchange of the three little words at a busy house party between boys, Katrine’s tearful exchange in the aftermath of the party (also the strongest drama scene Ida is given) and the showdown between best friends are fitting pay offs for the slow burning dilemmas that have been building up through the course of the film.
Previous experiences of Norwegian cinema could leave you with a misguided view that it was all machismo and death metal documentaries but that’s clearly not the case. The Man who loved Yngve may not be the most original piece of cinema to come out of a nation that is crammed with creative vision but it is different one of the most tender, confident and genuinely moving cinematic achievements. More than anything else, more than a tale of sexually, friendship, loss, dreams and fears it is a tale of basic human needs. A story simply about love and the mental journey some have to undergo in order to accept it.
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