THE NORDIC FILM FESTIVAL: This charming ‘boy-meets-girl, boy-meets-boy’ love story was a highlight of the inaugural festival.
This excellent Norwegian drama, directed by Stian Kristiansen and based on the acclaimed young adult novel by Tore Renberg, proves that there is life yet in that relatively tired queer film genre, the ‘coming out’ story.
Set in 1989, and opening with a direct-to-camera monologue that quickly establishes the light and engaging tone of the film, The Man Who Loved Yngve
centres on Jarle Klepp (Rolf Kristian Larsen), a bored teenager living in Norway’s oil capital, Stavanger, who finds a new friend in fellow punk rock fan Helge (Arthur Berning). The pair form a band with a third friend, Andreas (Knut Sverdrup Kleppestø); and Jarle soon finds himself with a new girlfriend, the frank and fascinating Cathrine (Ida Elise Broch), as well as an important upcoming gig. But the arrival of a new student, Yngve (Ole Christoffer Ertvåg) disrupts Jarle’s life and forces him to reconsider everything he knows – or thinks he knows – about himself and his world.
Over its 90 minute running time, the film captures the highs and lows, the turmoil and the intensity of Jarle’s world, from his awkward and sometimes angry discussions with his separated parents, to his rapid infatuation with Yngve and all he represents.
Featuring charming performances from some of Norway’s best young actors, and incisive direction from newcomer Stian Kristiansen (who was still studying at Sweden’s National Film School in Lillehammer at the time he was appointed to helm the production) The Man Who Loved Yngve
avoids clichés and sentimentality while telling a fresh and authentic story about adolescent life. Characters are appropriately inarticulate, avoiding the faux-adult teenage dialogue depicted in such staples of US drama as Dawson’s Creek
, The OC
and more recent productions such as Gossip Girl
; and the pangs and pains of adult life are fleetingly though accurately portrayed.
Important alternative bands of the era – Joy Division, The Cure, The Jesus and Mary Chain – pepper the soundtrack, further establishing the period in which the film is set but also providing insights into the characters’ emotions, such as a scene in which a pensive Jarle lies on his bed as The Buzzcocks’ ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’ plays in the background.
The contrast between Jarle (an endearingly goofy, outgoing redhead who listens to bands like The Clash and Einstürzende Neubauten) and Yngve (a shy, blonde, tennis-playing fan of synth-pop and New Wave bands like Japan) couldn’t be more pronounced, but as the film unfolds the undeniable attraction between the two youths plays out with all-too-believable consequences. Especially welcome was the film’s refusal to resort to cliché, and the filmmakers’ decision not to pigeonhole Jarle’s sexuality: too many coming out films focus purely on gay life and gay desire, whereas films acknowledging bisexual identity are rare.
Having recently won the Best Feature award at the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in October, as well as two Amanda Awards (Best Children’s or Youth Film, and Best Direction) at the 2009 Norwegian International Film Festival earlier in the year, The Man Who Loved Yngve
marks Stian Kristiansen as a major talent to watch.
Mannen som elsket Yngve (The Man Who Loved Yngve)
Directed by Stian Kristiansen
Screenplay by Tore Renberg, based on his own novel
Stars Rolf Kristian Larsen, Ole Christoffer Ertvåg & Ida Elise Broch
Executive Producer Sigve Endresen
Original Music by John Erik Kaada
Cinematography by Trond Høines
Edited by Vidar Flataukan
Production Design by Tuva Hølmebakk
The Nordic Film Festival