wetware: Copenhagen feature: Sex is Wonderful etc.
including an appreciation of the film
Du Er Ikke Alene (You Are Not Alone - 1978)
There is no graphic sex here but there is plenty of implied liberal/libertarian thought. If this is likely to offend you, you should go elsewhere.
Denmark was the first country to remove censorship (1969) and all of Scandinavia has a certain reputation for free thinking in this regard and more particularly in the area of sex. These days, the rest of the world has caught up.or at least the bigger cities have, but here it is part of the culture of liberalism rather than just a trendy add-on to whatever else is around or a don't look, don't tell, sort of denial. But don't get the wrong idea - "free love" is no more prevalent here than it is anywhere else. The existence of prostitutes in the area behind the central station would seem to bear this out.
The treatment of gays and lesbians is something else again. They have long been able to marry here, for example. Denmark was the first country in the world to legalise same sex marriage in 1989. General attitudes are more complicated and to illustrate, I'll use the 1978 film Du Er Ikke Alene (You Are Not Alone). This was the third of three films made by Lasse Nielsen which had the general theme "Adults Suck". After this film, Lasse Nielsen disappeared from Denmark and filmmaking for some years.
Lasse Nielsen now seems to have a Youtube channel called "filmlasse". It was started in March 2009 and he talks of a new film called 'The Story of Net'.
Du Er Ikke Alene
Du Er Ikke Alene is a technically faulty but very beautiful paean to boys. There are story lines about student power, authority, and kid sexuality. It all takes place in a sort of boarding school set in pretty countryside in the summer. The main story thread is about two boys of approximately 14 and 11 who fall in love. Remember, this is 1978 we're talking about.
Not for Cynics
There's lots here to make the tabloid-mind go absolutely berserk - tons of semi-nudity, a bit of complete nudity; segments where an adult female teaches a boy how to kiss, and the denouement which I won't tell you in case you watch it. There is no overt sex in the film other than kissing and touching.
Cynics too can have a field day. The NY Times, a few years back in mentioning a double feature with a Passolini film couldn't understand the pairing and thought the parade of semi-dressed or undressed boys a bit much. Cynics might also point out that these always gentle, always sweet lovers look like boy and girl. The younger is heart-stoppingly beautiful in some scenes, and with his silky shoulder length blonde hair, fine features, and long legs he is quite passable as a girl - but this is almost an abstraction on the idea of love - pure and almost grit free... and very non-confrontational. In other passages with him, he's just a kid and thus grounding things a little.
Reality or Dream?
I first watched the film only two months ago and it seemed to me that if I could talk to someone connected to it, all sorts of questions about then and now could be answered - questions about Danish attitudes to sexuality. Finding people was difficult or impossible however and the whole thing turned into a sometimes unpleasant saga: The director had been underground for years and only one of the boy actors had gone on to have a show business career (but was uncontactable). I did find one of the main characters though, after a fairly long search, but this only led to walk-by unpleasantness in the Stroget. I'll save you the details as I said I would protect this person's privacy. And so I have.
30th Anniversary Doings
Last year, 2008, was the 30th anniversary of the film's release
and it was that occasion that brought out the boy who went on to a
show biz career. His name is Anders Lund Madsen, and he chose the
occasion to accuse the director of improper behavior and describing
his time with the making of the film as 'homo hell'. There was also
talk of a party where the young crew and boys frolicked. This piece of
self-promotional endearment to the right wing earned a swift denial
from the director and a statement from another actor saying
something like he'd never seen anything like that. The general
consensus could be summed up by the question 'Why did you wait 30
years to bring this up?' There was also talk of the director being
entranced or enchanted with one of the boys but no accusation that
he did anything about it. The camera was in love with all of them.
... continues below ...
Now and Then
All this illustrates current attitudes very well... yes, there are people who view sexual liberation and differences to the heterosexual state as evil. And yes, there are people who are squeamish about the same things. Here, as elsewhere, there is confusion about when a human being should be allowed to make choices - no wonder, it's very difficult to generalise.
Implications of past attitudes exist in the film - we know that the father of the younger boy lover will not be impressed. There are junior demon bikers, although the reason for their antagonism is undefined. Similarly, a man who pushes a boy violently in a shop is just left as a statement of ugliness. Yes, we are beautiful and they are ugly.
The relationship in the film is completely matter-of-fact. It is accepted by the other boys without question, razzing, or violence. Was this really the state of play in the Denmark of 1978? The answer seems to be "not quite" for then and "quite close" for now.
One thing that isn't disputed is that the film is greatly loved - men, women, hetero and homosexuals from all over the world. For some people it has even been life-changing. Gays claim it as a great 'coming out' film. The director, however, is vehement that it is not a gay film, that this was one strand of the story, but it was the most powerful and the most positive (in some ways) and most beautiful, so no wonder gays have claimed it. On the other hand, there is much to support the idea that this is somewhere beyond gay... or before - an abstraction of love and sexual awakening. Another aspect of this is the sheer youth of the younger boy. His prepubescent beauty is to all normal people (who, contrary to tabloid imaginings, include something over 99% of us), a sexless thing, a sort of angel... albeit a slightly lustful one.
A Literary Tribute?
An interesting BTW here concerns the American author and academic Guy Davenport, who died in 2005. A story called The Jules Verne Steam Balloon was published as part of a collection in 1987. This story was set in an imaginary Denmark and includes a prepubescent boy called Kim (same as the younger boy in Du Er Ikke Allene) who has a boy lover who is three years older called Anders (the actual name of Kim's lover in the movie). Kim's father is likewise a headmaster, though an outstandingly liberal one in the story. I haven't seen the book, only an academic appraisal of it, and it seems the idea of this story is a return to innocence that rejects modern puritanism in matters of sex - an educational (and controversial) sort of "playpower". And, I find out later, the whole philosophical basis for the relationships is not gayness but ancient Greekness.
At first sight, it looks like the story is
a subtle tribute to the film .. in parts, but most of the stories in
the book were first published in journals and I'm not able to find
the date for this one. So which was a tribute to which?
*a little time passes*
And it looks like it wasn't pre-published though the answer is not completely definite (Thanks to Tara @ResearchBuzz) which suggests that Davenport might have been having a little in-joke as well as giving a subtle acknowledgement. Davenport's work is so far away in other respects that there can be no thought of plagiarism. It is, in fact, a sometimes eyepopping extension of the film. The last word here belongs to a friend of Guy Davenport who states that the allusions to Du Er Ikke Allene in The Bicycle Rider are 'deliberate'. Reference
In a way, the film is a development of the radical politics of slightly earlier - a gilded offshoot of Richard Neville's Playpower. Punk was picking up on some of the same things but this is an altogether nicer and more positive daydream.
There are numerous tribute clips available on Youtube including one which concentrates on the love angle. The one below is a trailer and gives a better idea of the whole. The original is in Danish but there are subtitled versions. Maybe it will make you want to see more, in which case there is a DVD available ... You Are Not Alone
At one level it's not so strange that people connected with this film don't want to talk about it. Some of the boys might have had a rough time at school afterwards, for example, or viewed the whole thing as something akin to experimental sexual fumbling and best left in a dark closet. It's been a long time though and surely things can be viewed now with some perspective and with heads held high. In any case, if anyone connected with the film would like to talk about aspects of it, I'd love to hear from them. You can use Mstation's contact page to do so. We don't even know where it was shot.
In today's Copenhagen, there is nothing particularly startling to show anything about attitudes - there are no nude billboards (as one might get in France) or anything much else of sexual display. Social intercourse in bars and clubs is pretty much the same as it is anywhere else of a decent size. As a tourist website points out, gays and lesbians are so well integrated that there are not so many places to hangout. They do exist however.
Whatever your preferences are, there are many attractive, civilised, and very pleasant people here. And if they like something about you, you will generally know.
Thanks very much to Hanna for the translation of Danish sources to do with the 30th anniversary doings.
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