You Are Not Alone – an interview with Lasse Nielsen

26

“You Are Not Alone” is a true coming of age-movie, a classic, and a must see”

A poignant and wonderful movie.

Lasse NielsenMuch has been said and written about the acclaimed Danish   film “Du er ikke alene” (You Are Not Alone). For fans of  the coming of age  genre, ” You Are Not Alone ” is what ” Star Wars ” is for the sci-fi fans.Lasse Nielsen, who directed the film back in 1978, agreed to give an exclusive interview for theskykid.com and its readers.

theskykid.com : “You Are Not Alone” became a classic of the coming of age genre. Did you envision the popularity of the film when its shooting was done ?

Lasse Nielsen : No, I never dreamed that “You Are Not Alone” would become a classic or a cult film of any kind.  Maybe because I make films with my heart and not my head.  For me, making movies are a necessary expression and not a calculated profession.

theskykid.com : How difficult it was to cast and find two young actors who worked together so well and  were willing to do the part?

Lasse Nielsen : We cast Bo very quickly, but Kim was more difficult.  We did screen tests for over 100 boys – but either the look wasn’t right or their acting was poor.  Just a few weeks before filming began, my co-writer – the psychologist Bent Petersen – recommended the 12-year-old son of a fellow psychologist.  When this boy Peter walked into the studio, I knew at once that this was the boy we were looking for.  Actually, when we first saw him his hair was so long that we had to order a haircut so we could see his face!

theskykid.com : What was the public reaction to the film when it came out?

Lasse Nielsen : The reaction was somewhat mixed, but on the whole it was positive. The Danish film censors classified the film as “forbidden for children under 12,” believing that younger children would not understand the homosexual theme.  But some years later, this restriction was officially removed

Du er ikke alene (1978)theskykid.com : How was your film received in other countries?  Was the film ever banned or not respected in some parts of the world?

Lasse Nielsen : To the best of my knowledge the movie was never banned.  It was shown in major film festivals in Italy, Germany and Holland, but never widely released outside Scandinavia.  In the U.S.A. it was released on video (one of Award Films’ best-sellers) and it continues to sell well on DVD.

theskykid.com : The sexual themes in “You Are Not Alone” is very innocent and daring.  Do you think we have progressed over the years to a more honest approach to the subject in cinema?

Lasse Nielsen :  I wanted to make a film about boys in a boarding school, and their honest feelings.  I attended a boarding school myself, so it wasn’t difficult to write the story.  At the time, I actually wasn’t aware that “You Are Not Alone” was the first Danish film to show a love story between two boys.   In these 31 years since making the film, I’ve had many letters – especially from young boys and girls – telling me how much the movie meant to them – how much better they felt about themselves after seeing the film.  Since that time, there have been a number of Danish films dealing with homosexuality, but generally the gay relationship is somehow troubled and unhappy.  Often one of the partners dies.  In any case, there are few “happy endings!”

theskykid.com : Was the long kissing scene in “You Are Not Alone” always planned to be the end of the film? or was it a last minute change?

Lasse Nielsen : No.  We actually shot more scenes after the parent’s night film screening, where Kim runs out of the room after being scolded by his father.  Bo and Kim meet down in their secret spot in the woods. Unfortunately, however, that scene turned out too dark and we didn’t have enough money left in our budget to re-shoot.  So the new ending was created in the editing room. But of course it was always meant to be a happy ending!

theskykid.com : Do you think that the  attitudes towards young teen gays have changed since the film was made?

Lasse Nielsen : Yes, I think so.  In many ways, there is more tolerance.  On YouTube, for example, you can see many young boys “coming out” as gay. And – at least in Denmark – parents are becoming more accepting.  I’m not sure there has been much progress in U.S.A. however, where many young gay teenagers are still driven to suicide because of general and specific social harassment.

Du er ikke alene - Sebastiantheskykid.com : You are not alone has a beautiful theme song.  Who chose it? Did someone talk to Sebastian and then he wrote the song according to the film content, or did he came with songs to chose ?

Lasse Nielsen : I had worked with the Danish composer/singer Sebastian on my previous feature, “Maybe We can.” When I sent him the script for “You Are Not Alone” he was very impressed, and he began to write songs for the film even before we started shooting. I remember the night he called me on the phone and played the theme song for me. I sat there crying, because the song was so perfect for the mood of the movie I had in mind. Sebastian has since become one of Denmark’s leading popular composers. He also wrote songs for several musicals that are performed frequently throughout Scandinavia.  He is also famous for writing new music for the lyrics of the German playwright Bertolt Brecht.

theskykid.com : Do you think the film could be made today,is so why?

Lasse Nielsen : No, I don’t believe the film could be made today.  We have an unfortunate situation of self-censorship these days.

theskykid.com : As this blog  mainly focuses on coming of age films, it would be interesting to know if you have a favorite coming of age film that you can recommend to the people reading this interview ?

Lasse Nielsen : The films of Francois Truffaut are outstanding, and have been very inspiring for me. In my latest film, “The Story of Net,” I used Vivaldi’s music – much like Truffaut did in “The Wild Child.” Other coming-of-age movies I like are “The 400 Blows,” “The Man Without a Face,” “Streetwise,” “Young Aphrodites,” and “Nobody Knows.”

The story of Net

theskykid.com : Is there anyone you want to add ?

Lasse Nielsen : My new film, “The Story of Net,” has taken three years to complete, and has probably been the most difficult film for me to make.  That’s because I was solely responsible for the writing,directing, casting, editing – and even the catering! It was a wonderful experience, however, working with a group of enthusiastic amateurs in Thailand.  A number of Thai people who have seen the movie have told me that the acting is on par with  what any professional Thai actors could do!

“The Story of Net” is focused on the experiences of one 12-year-old Thai boy.  But I believe that children anywhere in the world will be able to identify with this boy.  I strongly believe that the feelings of children are universal.

Special thanks to everyone who contributed to this interview by sending me questions and/or discussing it with me.

Special thanks to Lasse for his informative and interesting answers. Hope that you like the interview , pals – let me know in the comments section below.

 

Interview conducted : October .2009

26 COMMENTS

  1. This movie should play in the first highschool years,At 12-13yo it’s a + to identify with someone our age via movie or now youtube ”My coming out story” just for the feeling ”I’m not alone”

  2. Hi,

    You’re not alone is an amazing iconic coming of age film.
    It would be impossible to produce a such film nowadays because our sensorship has a director i’ve try in my last film Taro, to deal with this sensitive project but with all boys. If anyone is interrested to get this film,

    contact me on :contact@lesfilmsdelafalaise.com

    ps: I have a project to direct a film with Lasse Nielsen in the next future

  3. Finally I can post.

    Well I saw this film a few years ago. At some point is kind of boring but the story itself is a simple love story and there’s no need for too much explanation.

    I know that a lot of people will identify with the movie and say that this has help them overcome fears and go out of the closet.

    For me this movie was about love, pure innocent love that can be. Between 2 boys, 2 girls or one boy and one girl.

    I think is a great movie for anyone, no need to label it for gay kids. Maybe it can help gay kids, but it will also be good for all sort of public.

    Problem today is that our society has become so prude, that this movie is probably banned everywhere.

    Anyway, just wanted to give my 2 cents.

    Cheers

    • As far as I am aware the film is not banned anywhere in the world.I agree with your observations – and personally find the film cute and in a way inspirational. Love , friendship – we don’t need strict borders in between. The society is ever evolving – recently I wanted an episode of Kids React to Gay Marriage -on YouTube and it seem that the new generation expresses their ideas and impression more freely that people once did. You are not alone has a significat following of female appreciators – even if from the Japan`s culture we know that is often the case

    • Short answer to your question would be : No. Many movies have scenes that feature nudity – the one in You Are Not Alone is not exploitative and minimal .I did not even bother to mention it in my review of the film.

  4. It is rsre that I would watch and enjoy a movie with subtitles. Of course there are exceptions. For instance, the French Canadian movie C.R.A.Z.Y, anothet European one called Europa Europa, and this one.
    You Are Not Alone has to be easily my favourite COA piece. I to only saw this one as an adult. I wish I saw this movie when I was 13or 14. This is a must see by all gay and bi teens, it is tender, tolerant, and timely, it throws no punches. The characters are likeable and the two leads are superb playing their complex roles. And demonstrates that teens in Denmark are the same as teens anywhere.

  5. I have only recently seen this film as an adult I am from the UK and am now 30 I only came out at 21 after seeing queer as folk the UK version but I so wished that I had seen this wonderful film when I was young I always knew I was gay even at a very young age, this movie if I’d seen about 13 or 14 would have given me such courage to come out years earlier and have been a proper gay teen instead of doing nothing about my feelings till I was 21.

    I simply can’t believe this film was around when I needed it since before I was born even but I never saw it till I was 30, I do wish I’d had a boyhood romantic relationship like Bo and Kim did in this film

    The UK has done a few good films like beautiful thing but these were in the late 90s Denmark did this before I was even born

    Best film I’ve seen in years

  6. Tilgiv mig. Jeg skriver dette for mig selv så godt som du. Jeg er dansk-amerikaner. Min mor og langt kom her til amerikansk, da jeg var 10 år. I 1974 min engelsk var meget dårlig. Der var nogle få film eller programmer vi kunne se på dansk. Deres var en af ​​dem. Ved den verdensomspændende lancering af din film jeg var, at closeted lille bøsse barn som din hovedperson i “You are not only.” Ir var kun på grund af din film, som jeg var i stand til at komme ud til mine forældre som en homoseksuel barn i 1978. Jeg var stadig på 13 år inden da, og jeg var forelsket i min kæreste amerikansk nabo. Mine forældre og jeg så din film i et Georgetown teater i Washington DC Jeg var så rørt over min historie sat op på den store skærm, at jeg ikke kunne holde op med at græde. Jeg tilstod mine forældre, at jeg var bøsse i vores bil. De var så tilfreds med mig, at jeg havde fundet mig selv. Vi fejrede. Jeg har kun set din film en gang siden.
    Men sidste tirsdag, jeg faldt over på internettet historie min 14 år gamle søn. Jeg gik lige ud til en videobutik og købte denne DVD. Min søn græd også. Han fortalte mig, at han følte, at han var bøsse. Jeg var lettet. Vi troede hans humør var om stoffer. Han tilstod at han er forelsket i vores nabo, Samuel, også 14.
    Jeg ville bare du skal vide, at du har touch mange generationer af drenge i en positiv måde. Du har lavet en risikabel film-måde forud for sin tid i amerikanske biografer. Alligevel din film begyndte samtalen om homoseksuelle ungdom. Og for det takker jeg dig.

    P.S. Jeg gjorde giftes med en vidunderlig mand. Vi har tre drenge (Alder 9, 11, 14)

    Forgive me. I write this for myself as well as you. I am Danish-American. My mor and far came here to American when I was 10 years. In 1974 my English was very bad. There were few movies or programs we could see in Danish. Yours was one of them. By the worldwide release of your film I was that closeted little gay child like your main character in “Du er Ikke Alene.” Ir was only because of your film that I was able to come out to my parents as a gay child in 1978. I was still aged 13 years by then, and I was in love with my dearest American neighbor. My parents and I saw your film in a Georgetown theater in Washington D.C. I was so touched by my story put up on the big screen that I couldn’t stop crying. I confessed to my parents that I was gay in our car. They were so happy with me that I had found myself. We celebrated. I have only seen your movie once since.
    But last Tuesday, I fell upon the internet history of my 14 years old son. I went right out to a video store and bought this DVD. My son cried too. He told me that he felt that he was gay. I was relieved. We thought his moods were about drugs. He confessed he is in love with our neighbor, Samuel, also 14.
    I just wanted you to know that you have touch many generations of boys in a positive way. You made a risky movie–way ahead of it’s time in American theaters. Nevertheless, your film began the conversation about homosexual youth. And for that, I thank you.

    p.s. I did marry a wonderful man. We have three boys (Age 9, 11, 14)

    • Mikkel:

      I want to thank you for helping me to understand what an ass I have been these last few years. I did not realise that every time I said a dirty gay joke, or side cutting comment about my fellow gay co-worker I was in effect killing my own son’s self esteem. I do now.

      I year ago my boy Elias decided to end his life. I had found him. With the help of casualty workers (EMS for Americans) we brought him back to life. He had been dead 2 minutes. A year later, Francine, my sister-in-law showed me your story You Are Not Alone that was on VHS. Only Francine owed such a machine. She told me that she found the video tape after Elias’ stay with her. She asked me how I felt about gay children. I didn’t know there were gay children. Gay children? No. But that is what I had sleeping in his bed. A beautiful gay teenager that I–through my ignorance, bigotry and snobbery, had pushed away every day I opened my mouth. I was unknowingly killing him every day because of my mouth and attitude, hating a group of people who never did me a single wrong.

      Last night I laid down besides my son and watched this movie. I first he was very tense. When I told him that it was nice that Bo and Kim found love in each other, Elias cried. And then cried some more. Elias admitted to me and my wife that he had known that he was gay at age twelve. He said he knew he was different since age five. And he saw no other way out but suicide. We hugged all night. I have never loved my son so much as when he told me that he was gay.

      Thank your for the lesson of your life.

      George Sampson, 30, London.

  7. I watched You are not alone almost everyday..I don’t know the feeling why I can’t control myself watching. I heard the Director Lasse Neilsen is doing the You are not alone 2. I am sure buying this DVD again. Please advise if the cast Bo and Kim (Anders Agenso and Peter Bjerg) are available.Is Ander still alive? Please response. Thank you.

  8. who am i commenting on a site of “skykid.com” – commenting on a movie made for kids – how dare? as an adult – in 2012!
    Yes, we are definitly regressing since the days the film was made.
    5 years earlier the story could have been my own personal. i was in a romantic relationship at school with a boy like kim and i was in the age of bo. innocent, warm and touching. the end was painful and full of social pressure for both of us. today we are both fathers and never got in contact again. but the memory is still fresh and vivid after watching the movie and i don’t want to miss this time of my youth. i just ask myself if we grew gay if this was on theaters in our days then? could such a movie be a licence for boys 12-14 to stay against social pressure? the homosexuality of boys that age is kind of normal in their phase of exploring sexuality, that starts naturally with their own sex and ends normally in finding the sex in female counterparts and you loose the interest in your own body and those of other male. but what if love found no end? girls are waiting but you are not ready to leave the first phase? and what if the other boy steps into the next (hetero) phase? no answers but the one issue: i defenitly would miss my wonderful two kids.

    • When a movie makes one to reflect on his personal experience that is a clear sign that it was made well. Experience, mindset – which ever way one choose to call it. Personally I do not think that sexuality is linked to a specific age of the human development or should be discussed in terms of normality – its something strictly individual and its up to the person to figure it out at some stage of their lives. Some people never do figure it out entirely – but assume one or other role as required by the society . I am not sure why you don`t want to miss a certain experience of your youth – I for one miss a lot of mine even if I know that one should be focused on the future . Yet an answer to some of the questions you ask might be found in another film I recently reviewed titled North Sea Texas ( https://www.theskykid.com/movies/north-sea-texas-2011/ ) – may be just ignore its ending. I can`t say if growing up with one sexual orientation is better or worse of growing up with another – after all when feelings and love are concerned to me it should not matter.

      Thank you for commenting Cristian. And do dare to keep commenting if other review or movie inspires you to

      George

    • thank you for the reply. i sat a while over the ‘don’t want to miss’ phrase (i’m no native speaker) and it seems i failed in transscripting. what i wanted to say is that i am admitting to what happened then and i’m lucky to have such experience others don’t. and i guess i wouldn’t be the same person if i had missed this episode of my youth. btw a person i won’t go along. it taught me that there is no straight or gay germ when you were given life. there is no genetic plan in your cells how you gonna spend your future life. this made me openminded and appreciative to those who aren’t like me and at least doubles my interests compared to others.
      the review of the belgian movie sounds interesting, especially the “seeing it as a silly, childish episode” line. let’s see if i can manage to get the dvd.

  9. How wonderful to finally hear more about the man who made a film that touches me as much today as when I first saw it years ago. Thanks for the interview.

  10. This is a masterpiece. Who can tell about all of its effects? I have seen some.
    Movie tells more than author knows. Helps with many answers. Forumula was to put in it no judging. Just the facts, and feelings. It relates to all opressed emotions in every place and age.

  11. In some ways, it seems, we have regressed rather than moved forward with themes shown in “You Are Not Alone.” Is the internet responsible? So many bad stories flying around about horribly bad people where kids lose their innocence by the time they’re six, seven, eight? I live in Canada, which isn’t quite as bad as the USA or other ultraconservative societies, but we’re getting there? Does it have to become worse rather than better? Films like this SHOULD be made more often, but sadly, they’re not.

  12. I loved this film. It was innocent, warm, touching genuine, honest and darning.

    The last scene in the movie with Bo and Kim is very sensual, beautiful and honest.

    I sincerely believe that if this film was never made, and a director was brave enough to make this film today exactly like the original, with all the same scenes it would get an Academy Award and a standing ovation from the actors in the audience.

    Why? because it is warm, tender, loving and honest and breaks through barriers of what is supposed to be politically correct.

    • I agree with you. The film needs to be remade in multiple languages. The film makes a statement that says “We are gay and this is okay.”
      I first saw this film when I was almost fourteen years of age. It touched my heart so much that I came out to my parents in the carpark before going home.

      Since then, I have a gay son–also now age fourteen–who I shared this movie. It opened our relationship like a rose.

      Lasse, please remake this film.

  13. this is the song subtitle from the VHS version of You Are Not Alone:

    when you leave,
    dont turn around,
    there is no way back,
    where you came from.
    All their jokes,
    you know them by heart,
    you know all their mistrusts,

    and you who dont know anything,
    but yet have been hurt.
    You simply know everything,
    you've paid a high price.
    If there is a truth,
    written in black and white,
    it's that nothing is yours.

    You are not alone,
    someone follows you.
    And the entire time,
    he is like you…
    like you

    And those who throw stones,
    hide themselves behind glass.
    They could have gotten your heart,
    but they did not have space.
    Because you shake their borders,
    you stop their train,
    but you should free yourself from their laws,

    because they throw stones from guilt.
    which they say is the law,
    and they should be judged.
    Right now you are too tired,
    but all their sons,
    will step out into,
    the world that they have been given.

    You are not alone,
    someone follows you.
    And the entire time,
    he is like you,
    like you

    If you are taken in,
    and you feel a hand,
    don't be afraid,
    you know where you came from,
    there is not much warmth,
    right around here,
    but I think we'll find the way forward,

    You are not alone,
    someone follows you.
    And the entire time,
    he is like you,

    You are not alone,
    someone follows you.
    And the entire time,
    he is like you,

    You are not alone,
    there are several that show trust,
    And the entire time,
    they are like us,

    You are not alone,
    someone follows you.
    [fade out]

  14. Very Impressive! So exciting to hear Lasse Nielsen's view! Du Er Ikke Alene has got to be one of the most compassionate films I have ever seen and deserves its place among the classics. Thank you, Lasse Nielsen.

  15. Hello Fred,

    I contacted Lasse and was able to obtain the Danish lyrics of the title song in ” You are not alone ” :

    Du er ikke alene

    Når du ta´r afsted
    så vend dig ikke om
    der´ ingen vej tilbage ,
    hvorfra du kom
    alle deres remser
    dem kan du uden ad
    du kender deres mistro og had

    Og du som intet ved
    men dog har fået alt
    du ved som nok det hele
    det' dyrt betalt
    Hvis der er en sandhed
    skrevet sort på hvidt
    så er det den at ingenting er dit

    Du er ikke alene
    der er en der følger dig
    og det´helt på det rene
    han har det li´som dig – som dig

    De som kaster sten
    gemmer sig bag glas
    de ku' ha' fået dit hjerte
    de havde ikke plads
    for du flytter deres grænser
    du kapper deres tov
    men du skal frifindes for deres lov

    For de står selv for skud
    som ejer lov og ret
    og de burde dømmes
    lige nu er du så træt
    men alle deres sønner
    og døtre ligeså
    vidner mod den verden de har fået

    Du er ikke alene
    der´en der følger dig
    og det helt på det rene
    han har det li'som dig – som dig

    Og bli'r du hentet ind
    og mærker du en hånd
    så bliv ikke bange
    du ved hvorfor den kom
    der er ikke megen varme
    lige her omkring
    – jeg tror nok i finder vejen frem

    : /Du er ikke alene
    der er en der følger dig
    og det' helt på det rene
    han har det li'som dig- som dig/:

    Vi er ikke alene
    der er fler der viser trods
    og det helt på det rene
    de har det li'som os – som os

    Than I used Google translator to get an English version :

    You are not alone

    When you'll take away
    so you do not turn on
    there's no turning back,
    from which you came
    all their rhymes
    them you can not ad –
    you know their distrust and hatred

    And as you know nothing
    but has received far
    you know that probably the whole
    the 'expensive
    If there is one truth
    written in black and white
    it's the nothing that is your

    You are not alone
    there is one who follows you
    and det'helt aware
    he has Just like you – who you

    Those who throw stones
    hiding behind glass
    the ku 'ha' got your heart
    they had no room
    for moving their borders
    you cloaks their rope
    but you must be dismissed for their law

    For they are themselves under fire
    who owns the law
    and they should be judged
    right now you're so tired
    but all their sons
    and daughters equally
    witnesses against the world they have been

    You are not alone
    der'en walking you
    and it is quite clear
    he has Just like you – who you

    And bli'r you downloaded into
    and brands you a hand
    so do not be afraid
    you know why it came
    there is little heat
    just around here
    – I think of is the way forward

    : / You are not alone
    there is one who follows you
    and the 'fully aware
    he has Just like you, like you /:

    We are not alone
    there are more shows, despite
    and it is quite clear
    they have it Just like us – like us

    ( I am aware that the automatic translation is not the best thing …but I guess anyone who knows Danish can help us fix any erroes that may exist in the transation ) .

  16. Thanks for this interview! Ever since '82, when I first saw this movie, I have tried to get as much information on it as possible. I really am sorry that I did not get the photos that Award Films offered back then. I lived in LA area and met the person from Awards and talked with him. But back then I had very little money and couldn't afford them. I now have the DVD with some extras that came with it and watch it about 5 or 6 times a year…never gets old!!

    If you ever come-up with the lyrics to the title song, would REALLY Love to see them!!
    Thanks so much for all!
    Fred

  17. Great interview. All “Du er ikke alene” should read this interview. Is so interesting and it gives you all the answers about what happen while doing the film, before and after. Plus it tells us how they choose that beautiful song for the movie. I just loved. A very well managed interview. Keep up the good COA Films work.

  18. Well thought out questions. Thank you for providing us with some new perspectives on this classic film. I always love to hear an artists perspective on his or her own work — especially in a 30-year retrospect.

  19. What an interesting interview! It wasnt that long ago i watched Du er ikke alene for the first time, but i was stunned by it and must agree with you and everyone else that it's a truly classic CoA-movie.

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