You are Not Alone (1978)
Directed by Lasse Neilsen and Ernst Johansen
There were two schools of thought within the handful who saw the Danish classic movie You Are Not Alone, made in the 1970’s and portraying adolescent males in a boarding school. There was a group of people who liked it despite of some flaws and there was another who thought that its depiction of adolescent sexuality was ‘a bit inappropriate’. Because of my Catholic guilt and my contemporary views on sexuality – which complement each other on strange instances such as this – I belong to the latter.
It’s difficult to defend this movie or to determine whether it’s worth defending. Should I leave it and say that it’s a time capsule, a relic of 1970’s Danish culture, a manifestation of a general divide and a freedom that I can never be a part of? The ‘worst’ actions it depicts are long shots of two adolescents hugging in the shower and another scene where the main ‘couple’, the younger half of whom is the headmaster’s son, make out.
To be fair, there are also manifestations of heterosexuality within the children in this movie. Some of the students have filled their walls with pictures of naked women and neck around with the young women who do the cooking for the school (all of this makes this movie’s boarding school the worst that I’ve seen in a movie so far). But scenes portraying the latter are shrouded in darkness while the scenes between the boys are depicted under fluorescent or natural lighting. The movie doesn’t use the word ‘gay’, although the gay characters acknowledge that they like boys and that that’s ok.
I do have to recognize that the movie presents those ‘affectionate’ scenes as plausible scenarios, and this is coming from someone who has gone through some bases in middle school and high school. It’s not as if it’s the first time I’m watching relationships like this on film, having seen Lindsay Anderson’s If a few years back. Neither are children asexual beings until they reach an arbitrary age of consent – that’s a world that we adults see as ideal. I’ve read writers who have condemned mostly Hollywood movies from hiding the truth, but why is it that it makes me feel uncomfortable seeing it? Are some truths off-limits in cinema?
The movie doesn’t just focus on the relationships between the boys and some girls, since there are headmasters, teachers, parents and townies within this movie. I’m not fully confident about the intentionality of how we should sympathize with these minor characters. They get the townies right, who are effectively despicable as right-wing hicks who bully our protagonist Bo and almost crucify him for protesting a classmate’s expulsion and call him a ‘communist’. That’s not the same case with the boarding school’s staff. However, I couldn’t believe the lax teacher. The headmaster is stern but not cartoonishly so and I actually thought that the children acted entitled against him when both parties were clashing. Yet I have a feeling that he’s being presented as the villain. I don’t care if this movie makes me feel old, there are just a lot of things within it that I couldn’t agree with.