24th BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival: TMC reviews The Man Who Loved Yngve
The Man Who Loved Yngve tells the story of 17 year old Norwegian Jarle. It’s 1989, the Berlin Wall has just fallen and with a new girlfriend, great friends and his own punk bad, everything seems to be going right in his life. However it all begins to fall apart when the tall blond Yngve joins his class. Jarle is soon preoccupied by this strange boy who is unlike anyone he has ever met. He finds himself inventing pretexts to play tennis with Yngve and visit his house to listen to synth-pop. As he slowly becomes aware of the nature of his feelings for Yngve his world starts to crumble. He’s unable to commit to either his band, his girlfriend or his friends. Jarle finds himself torn between the life he thought he wanted and feelings which he doesn’t entirely understand. With the band’s first live performance on the horizon he tries to make sense of it all and yet, in practice, he can’t. Drunk and stoned at the post-gig party, things take a tragic turn and he’s forced to confront his feelings in spite of the consequences.
Perhaps the thing that struck me most about this film is how the major problem for Jarle was not that he was attracted to a boy but rather the love triangle which ensued from this attraction. While there was certainty homophobia in the film (and the most striking instance of it comes from Jarle himself during a drunken confrontation with Yngve at the party) it was not defined by it. In spite of the emotional chaos which dominates the second half, as well as the moment of tragedy which ensues from it, The Man Who Loved Yngve somehow retains an optimism which a film like this could easily have lost and this is a tribute both to the quality of the script and the earnestness which the main actors bring to the portrayal of their teenage characters. The acting of Rolf Larsen (Jarle) and Ida Broch (his girlfriend Catherine) is particularly notable in this regard but the most touching performance is Ole Ertvåg as the beautiful, dreamy and brittle Yngve.
The highlight of the film is the pulsating soundtrack, largely 80s rock and new wave, which perfectly captures the ebullience with which the characters embrace the culture of the era. The practice scenes with their band are charming, as is their one aborted gig, cut short by the stoned drummer falling backwards and pulling the entire drum kit down onto him. Both their music and the soundtrack add so much to the feel of the film. In a film populated mainly by teenagers, the characters often don’t show a great deal of insight nor a willingness to talk outright about their feelings. However the music preserves the emotion and carries it like a powerful current throughout. This continues right until the final scene, as the perfect closing song brings the film to an optimistic end, whereas it might have otherwise have been a rather depressing finish. Jarle has his entire life ahead of him and, thanks to the music, the close of the film conveys this in a way which would be impossible verbally. I left this film with a huge smile on my face. It is lovely. Please see it if you can.