The Man Who Loved Yngve

The Man Who Loved Yngve

****

Reviewed by: Yusuf Javed

Coming of age stories come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it is about becoming an adult - a subject becoming more banal with each passing year - or about getting your first job, these tales are constantly being told. However, The Man Who Loved Yngve veers off this territory and knocks through into wilder terrain, where it becomes instead, a coming to term movie.

It’s Norway and it's 1989, odd fluorescent clothing is popular and Walkmans are one of the latest crazes hitting the street. If you are new to such a period (you’re not the only one) then you are briskly brought to your feet by the opening statement of Jarle (Rolf Kristian Larsen), our hero. On a school trip he talks to the viewer and informs us about the time he lives in, where iPods are science fiction and the EU is a figment of someone’s imagination. After this brief glimpse of the film's era, we see him a new friend, Helge (Arthur Berning), a dark haired and brooding rebel. Helge and he share similar views on teachers, music and most importantly, girls.

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Now we leap three months into the future, Jarle has formed a band with his not so new friend and has managed to also gain a girlfriend, Katrina, whom Helge also fancies. Everything seems to be going well when Jarle’s world is flipped as Yngve comes to town. On the week of the Berlin wall collapse, Yngve appears and becomes an increasingly fascinating study to Jarle. He slowly becomes infatuated with him and is riddled with confusion and indecision.

Based on the novel of the same title, the film captures the novelistic style, where the main focus is the inner turmoil that Jarle feels for loving Yngve. This is in a time where if one said "gay" then it was usually in a sentence which also featured the word "AIDS". This is not a huge factor in the film, though, instead director Stian Kristiansen and writer Tore Renberg (who also wrote the novel) have these aspects orbit the main focus. Jarle’s life is surrounded by pop culture so these issues are raised by a classmate’s gay bashing jokes and suchlike. These mentions increase the worry and turmoil that Jarle is feeling and, in turn, affect his actions.

Pop culture oozes from this film with a heavy dosage of the Eighties. Soundtrack is a major player, with music from REM and Joy Division among others, making sure the viewer never forgets the time period. The soundtrack is doled out sparingly in the first half where Jarle, for the most part, has his feet on the ground. While events continue to catch Jarle off guard the soundtrack slowly becomes more emotionally charged, with synth pop seeping in to capture the tone. This transition happens subtly while his web of emotions becomes more tangled with the people caught in it.

The Man Who Yngve carries a certain poignancy that might have otherwise fallen through the cracks without the novelistic script or the patient pace that the director brings to it. What could have easily been film about tight tank tops and bemusing gay sex dreams it is instead a fine study of indefinable feelings and constant inner confusion.There is also no lack of humour in the depths of this tale which helps lift the viewer’s spirits. Of course, the performances deserve a special mention - these are honest and heartfelt portrayals.

To make a movie like this is to walk a tightrope where so many factors can trip it up. You have to make sure it does not fall into a cheesy Kenneth Williams style portrayal of the character. You have to make sure that it does not seem like a parodied performance and you have to, above all, make sure it feels real. Despite all this being held against it, The Man Who Loved Yngve succeeds against the odds.

Reviewed on: 28 Sep 2010
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A teenager is forced to question his priorities and sexuality when a new kid comes to school.
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