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November 2010

The Man Who Loved Yngve

cast: Rolf Kristian Larsen, Arthur Berning, Ole Christoffer Ertvaag, and Ida Elise Broch

director: Stian Kristiansen

90 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
TLA DVD Region 2

RATING: 7/10
review by Mark West

The Man Who Loved Yngve

It's 1989, and Norwegian teenager Jarle Klepp (Rolf Kristian Larsen) is on a field trip and hating every minute of it - he has "no friends and he's never had sex" - and can't see anything changing soon. Then it does, as the Berlin Wall comes down and Communism collapses in Europe, he hooks up with Helge Ombo (Arthur Berning), and the beautiful Katrine Halsnes (Ida Elise Broch). Cut to three months later and the band he has now formed with Helge - The Matthias Rust Band - is offered a support slot and things are going very well indeed with Katrine.

Then a new boy joins the class, Yngve (Ole Christoffer Ertvaag), who plays tennis and watches clouds and Jarle finds himself conflicted - he clearly loves Katrine (she asks him, at one point, if they'll be forgiven and he answers 'yes' immediately) - but he has stirrings of feelings for Yngve, at odds with the casual homophobia of his friends. He discusses this with his divorced parents (though he tells them that the other person he loves is a girl), but they have their own issues and when Jarle's Mum (Trine Wiggen) is made redundant, everything seems to come apart at once.

I like coming of age stories, I like the 1980s and I like quirky little films that are spiky and well made and full of passion and this scored with all of those. Told with a raw style (nicely judged colours aid the chill Norwegian landscape), lots of close-ups and some telling detail, this engages your attention from the off and never lets go. Certainly, some of the 'quirks' (especially the cloud watching) have been seen countless times before, but there's a real charm to this (and I don't know if that's from a Brit watching a film from Norway) that allows you to zip past those obstacles.

The cast are very good, with all of the actors thoroughly believable (even the classmate desperate to be in with the cool crowd, whose lines only reinforce how far away from them he really is - "do you play any Dire Straits?" is not a question to ask a punk band - comes across as fully rounded) and the performances are spot on. You laugh with them, you wince with them, you groan with the realisation that you might have done something similar in the past.

The Man Who Loved Yngve (aka: Mannen som elsket Yngve) is subtle, both in terms of direction (there's one showy moment, a bedroom moving from night to day) and writing and the soundtrack is marvellous - Jarle and Helge bond, initially, over The Jesus And Mary Chain, and Brit music plays throughout.

The gay aspect is well handled, with Jarle's slow-building realisation played out against lingering shots of Yngve (no, I can't pronounce his name either) and when Jarle admits/ rejects his feelings, the third act is set clearly into place. Jarle is the only one who can't see what he's done, driving his friends away in the process and when he understands what Yngve has done (to end up in "the big house," as his little sister charmingly puts it), it sets up a climax that is poignant and bittersweet. The final sequence, mixing Jarle on the bus and what happened immediately after the field trip - showing us how he, Helge and Katrine cemented their friendship - with Love Will Tear Us Apart as the soundtrack is a stroke of genius.

Put at its most basic - a 1980s teenager from Norway comes to terms with his sexuality - this might not sound like the most appealing film ever made, but I'd strongly suggest you give this a chance. I liked it a lot and very much recommend it.



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