Mannen som elsket Yngve (2008)
Welcome back to Norway in the 1980s - to a time when kids were either "freaks" or "soss" - either oppositional anti-capitalistic rockers or slickly dressed, synth-pop-loving jocks. In Stian Kristiansen's Mannen som elsket Yngve (The Man Who Loved Yngve), we are brought vividly 19 years back in time to re-live those wonderful, frustrating years of youth with an unlikely Stavanger bunch. The hub of the crowd is the companionable Jarle. He's blessed with his fair share of confidence and popularity, has two great friends and a beautiful girl, but still keeps searching for his true identity. His friends are anti-pop, button-wearing rockers who detest the yuppie culture and put almost anything down to maintaining their integrity. Their friendship and their slightly up-and-coming rock band are the only things sacred to them. Then one day, a new kid enters class. Yngve is different, both in appearance and tone. He listens to arty synth pop (Japan), plays tennis and wears fashionable clothes. Jarle is intrigued, his friends are not.
Mannen som elsket Yngve is not an easy film to conduct. It's aspirations and objectives are diverse, complex and not at all straightforward. Stian Kristiansen's work here, in his first feature, is absolutely brilliant. He is able to combine his periodic spoof/homage with some timeless, profound discussions on identity, sexual orientation and youth. Rolf Kristian Larsen, who is emerging as one of the greatest Norwegian acting talents at present, is used wisely as an instrument for the film's many shifts in mood and tone. And these shifts are Kristiansen's most impressive feat; he balances his film around them with impressive rhythm and flair. He alternates between comedy and serious drama with perfect timing, thus constantly avoiding wearing us out or making us uncomfortable.
Tore Renberg's script is perceptibly full of insight. He is familiar with the different arch-types upon which he bases his characters, but he makes them very human and, assisted by the brilliant acting ensemble, we're learning about people instead of observing puppets. Speaking about the acting, this might be some of the best collective acting ever in a Norwegian film. And the impressive part is that, except for Wiggen and Broch, these are all local Rogaland performers. Ertvåg and Berning both make promising debuts (the latter a refreshing comedic talent), and the fine Trine Wiggen is developing into the Norwegian equivalent of Frances McDormand - which must be said to be something of a compliment.
Mannen som elsket Yngve is important and uplifting - a combination that shouldn't be underestimated. It presents its joyful segments just as convincingly as it does the graver subjects. How many well-directed, freshly portrayed high school/college house parties have you seen depicted on film recently? Well, here is one you'll definitely enjoy. Probably the best Norwegian film of the year.