The Bothersome Man (rewatch)
Posted by martinteller on May 26, 2012
Andreas (Trond Fausa Aurvag) leaps in front of a train, and the next thing he knows (or the next thing we know) he gets deposited at a desolate, abandoned gas station, driven into a city and given an accounting job. What appears to be a nice experience turns out to be bland and lifeless. The people around him are unaffected by anything, and care about little except mild pleasures and interior design. Hot chocolate has no taste. Even the alcohol doesn’t get you drunk. And jumping in front of a train won’t get you out of it. If you like a film with mysteries, this one has plenty. Where is this place? Is it a disappointing Heaven or a banal Hell? Why are there so few others who seem to care? Is it a nightmare? Where are the children? What’s with those two people who creepily make out with their eyes open? Does their presence in the opening and the middle mean that Andreas has always been here? And where does he end up?
These are fun questions to ponder, but I don’t see the film as a puzzle waiting to be solved. Instead, it’s a Kafka-esque (rarely is the term so appropriate) critique of modern, sterile society. With typically Scandinavian deadpan wit, Jens Lien challenges us to examine what we consider important, to passionately seek out the things that make life worth living and not just an empty day-to-day existence. There is a nice sense of subtlety at play here. The inhabitants of the city are not merely robots. They smile, they seem to enjoy each other’s company, they engage in leisure activities and seek out physical comforts. They don’t appear to be Stepford Wives, they’re sincere. But gradually the superficiality of their sincerity becomes clearer and clearer, until we realize that dinner parties are more important than break-ups, and the reigning topic of discussion is what couch to buy.
I do feel obligated to say that the film wasn’t quite as rewarding the second time around as I’d hoped it would be, but I think that’s merely because I slightly overrated it the first time. But we’re talking fractional differences in appreciation… if it’s not quite “masterpiece” status, it’s still a funny, intriguing movie with a fine performance by Aurvag (and the supporting players as well, especially Birgitte Larsen and Petronella Barker) and a muted aesthetic that perfectly suits its subject matter. Excellent stuff for an existential crisis. Rating: Great