“In the first year of the epidemic AIDs would kill an estimated 5000 people. After 25 years the death toll now strands at over 25 million, making AIDs one of the most devastating epidemics in recorded history. Every year the pandemic still kills over 2 million people. Worldwide an estimated 35 million people live with the disease. Every year approx. 2.5 million new HIV infections are registered. The fight against AIDs is far from over”.
The above statement accompanies the closing credits of the Luxembourgian-German drama House of Boys (2009) a film directed and written by the Luxembourg born Jean-Claude Schlim best known as a producer and production manager. The film follows the story of a young gay teenager who leaves his family home to start a new life in Amsterdam in 1984. Joining Frank (Layke Anderson) on his adventure is his best friend Rita but on arrival in the Netherlands they part company leaving Frank to find a job and somewhere to live. A nightclub called the House of Boys fills both these requirements. It’s run by a performing drag queen called Madame (the wonderful Udo Kier) who employs young attractive men to dance and provide sexual services. Frank meets all sorts of characters including a bi sexual dancer called Jake (Ben Northover) with whom he quickly falls in love.
A film in three acts but really its in two half’s, the first half is about being a carefree and sexually active young gay embroiled in the freedom’s offered by the liberal lifestyle of early 80’s Amsterdam. The second half announces the repercussions of this life style with the arrival of AIDs and all the misery and death that this very unwelcome disease brought with it. Filmed on location in Luxembourg and Cologne it won the 2009 Best Film at the prestigious Lëtzebuerger Filmpräis. Generally the acting is very good even if the British born Layke Anderson is a touch melodramatic at times and it’s given a bit more kudos not just by the acting skills of Udo Kier but by Stephen Fry as a Doctor who is trying to get to grips with the onslaught of AIDs, and TV actress Eleanor David (Comfort and Joy 1984) as Emma who works at the House of Boys as a sort of manager and mother figure to the young lads. The period detail is spot on with the devastating onslaught of the HIV virus handled in a emotional and sympathetic manner, making you empathise with the film’s characters and perhaps take away a better understanding of what it was like to be gay and at the forefront of this awful plague.