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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 14.Apr.20

The Danish Boys  
Reviews by Rich Cline
The Danish Boys
release 7.Nov.19
19/UK NQV 1h36

This collection of five short films from Denmark creates a complex portrait of the experience of gay men in one of Europe's most progressive nations. It reveals deep-seated cultural prejudices as well as a refreshing sense of openness, while taking on some very big topics while drawing parallels between homophobia and other societal issues. Each film is made to a very high standard, with decent budgets adding oomph to skilled cast and crew. These are powerful little dramas, not for the fainthearted.

bang and hvidtfeldt dir Michael Sondergaard
scr Tomas Lagermand Lundme
with Claes Bang, Youssef Wayne Hvidtfeldt
18/Denmark 12m

Hotel Boy  

hotel boy There's a topical edge to this lushly shot Danish short, which follows a well-known politician Stefan (Bang) as he meets in a hotel room with Samir (Hvidfeldt), his much-younger secret boyfriend. Samir is in deeply love and has risked everything by telling his father, so now he has nowhere to go. But Stefan coldly remains reluctant to tell his wife about this side of his life, even though he had promised to do so. He says this is because of his 5-year-old daughter, but it's more likely due to his career. Suspecting this, Samir has a contingency plan.

With gorgeous cinematography by Jan Bastian Marthinsen and a pulsing score by Rumpistol, this hotel room is washed in deep shades of blue and purple light, a terrific contrast to the pointed, whispery dialog. The conversation between these men is intense and involving, as Samir begins to understand the true nature of Stefan's affection. It's a jagged, provocative little drama, smartly put together in a way that's powerfully involving as the tone takes some dramatic shifts. Where it goes is very dark indeed, exploring the grim reality in a society that likes to think of itself as enlightened.

raundahl dir Christian Edvard Halberg, Helle Rossing
scr Christian Edvard Halberg
with Max Raundahl, Helle Rossing, Morten Christensen, Ina-Miriam Rosenbaum, Ole Ellersgaard Nielsen
16/Denmark 24m


poz Opening with a scene of Oliver (Raundahl) teasing his sister Cilie (Rossing), this dark, engaging film centres on the relationship between these young adult siblings. When Oliver asks whether Cilie will take care of him if he gets ill, there's something deeper going on here. Indeed, Oliver seems genuinely surprised and annoyed that his clinic tests come back negative, because he's been engaging in deliberately risky behaviour. Is this because he wants someone to take care of him? Or is he just tired of being afraid?

The film is sharply well made, shot with a terrific attention to detail as it captures the physicality of the characters. Cutaways to extremely closeups of Oliver's eyes are unnerving, leading into scenes in which Oliver interacts with others, such as lying to a man (Christensen) about testing positive. The earthy, offhanded actors are excellent, with a terrific central performance by Raundahl as a likeable young guy riddled with personal doubts. Where the story goes feels overly intense and somewhat moralistic, which kind of simplifies a complex subject that's difficult to talk about. But the film is provocative and thoughtful, and it's notable for addressing an important topic head-on.

cohen dir-scr Mathias Broe
with Lior David Cohen, Niels Bender
14/Denmark 12m

Young Man's Dance  
  Ung Mands Dans   4/5

Young Man's Dance Earthy and realistic, this short centres on teenage Mattis (Cohen), who vividly feels rejection from his father as he prepares to participate in a ballroom dancing competition. His dad doesn't even turn up to watch. So it's understandable that he has been seeking attention from his dance teacher (Bender). They have a clear connection, but the teacher works to maintain his distance. So Mattis takes an extraordinary step to change things between them, leading to an astonishing battle of wills.

Skilfully shot and edited, the film has a sensitive tone, getting under Mattis' skin to observe details of his life, getting ready for the competition and hopefully searching for signs of support from those around him. His dance partner offers some enjoyably no-nonsense interaction, while encounters with his teacher are much more charged, as the balance of control shifts between them. Writer-director Broe lets this unfold in a series of short, sharp, unexpected scenes that continually catch the audience off-guard. Where this goes is gruelling and sometimes disturbing. It's a powerful dive into some very dark psychology, springing from a young man's desperation to feel wanted.

jarvekl and moller dir Martin Reinhard
scr Troels Linde Andersen
with Jonathan Jarvel, Mikkel Moller, Mikkel Rishoj, Jakob Hasselstrom, Frederik Poulsen, Oscar Busch, Emma Marott, Sos Thiele
16/Denmark 18m

  Svans   4.5/5

Swans Opening with a towel fight in a locker-room shower, this drama establishes at the start that this group of lively teen boys is comfortable with being naked around each other. Then they're outside smoking, wondering if the new kid Alexander (Moller) is gay or not. Aksel (Jarvel) is clearly uncomfortable about the casual homophobia among his friends, because they don't know that he's secretly in a relationship with Alexander. But what Aksel pointedly ignores Alexander in public, his friends have noticed that he isn't chasing after the girls like they are. And Aksel knows that he needs to make a decision about his next step.

The actors have a relaxed authenticity to them that makes the dialog feel improvised, offering ever-deeper glimpses into the characters. Jarvel and Moller have terrific chemistry together, especially as Alexander challenges Aksel to be more tender and also to stop lying to his friends. Both actors are excellent, giving star-making performances that resonate with charisma and underlying emotions. Meanwhile, director Reinhard stages this very cleverly in superb locations that add weight to Anderson's astute script, which is based on a real story. Even with its bleaker edges, this is a warmly engaging narrative about two likeable young guys who are easy to root for. And there's real emotional power in the story it tells.

castello and neumann dir-scr Aske Bang
with Casper Castello, Birthe Neumann, Peter Aude, Stanislav Sevcik, Anders Juul, Michael Lucas Lindenskov
11/Denmark 31m


Ladyboy At 30, Kristian (Castello) still lives at home with his protective mother Emma (Neumann), who fully accepts him as the gay cross-dressing lead singer in a local pop band. He's also her good-luck charm at bingo. When Emma finds a new boyfriend in Soren (Aude), it unnerves Kristian to have another man in the flat, especially since he must now conceal his true self. Soren is deeply intolerant but is able to charm Emma, even after he turns violently drunk. She even ignores Kristian's warnings about him, pushing Kristian out of the home. Meanwhile, nice-guy barman Rodney (Sevcik) is worried that Kristian is putting himself in danger, so he sets out to take care of him and restore his confidence.

The film has a gentle pace, as filmmaker Bang quietly recounts the story without melodrama, even though there are plenty of serious events along the way, including a nasty homophobic attack in the park and some awful domestic violence. The dawning tension between Kristian, Emma and Soren is beautifully underplayed by the three actors, catching a range of underlying emotions vividly while challenging the audience to understand each of them. Kristian is confident in his identity, clearly due to the support he has always had from Emma, so when that is shaken he feels his world begin to fall apart. Where the narrative goes is low-key and realistic, finding small moments of hope without forcing a loud climax or sentimental ending. It's a lovely little film, quirky, messy and full of real life.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 13.Apr.20

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