2006, Movies

Den brysomme mannen (2006, Jens Lien)

Imagine a dryer, less quirky, less fantastic Brazil and you get some faint idea of what this Norwegian film is like, a dystopian fantasy dark comedy which acts either as a critique of materialism/consumerism or as a horrible vision of the afterlife. (I’m not 100% sure which.) SPOILERS (I realize I already spoiled something for you. Sorry.)

My reference to Brazil is more broadly thematic than anything; The Bothersome Man (as it’s known in English) is really nothing like Brazil, but there some broadly similar themes. So let me drop the comparison.

A man shows up on a bus in the dessert and finds himself welcomed into a modern town/city, with a white collar job and an apartment. Of course, things are not what they seem: nobody appears to really enjoy anything. As our hero struggles to experience extreme sensations and emotions, he finds himself at odds with the society at large.

The film is at its best when its mystery is more impenetrable, when it is merely a humourous vision of a Kafkaesque reality where nobody seems to be bothered by the mundanity of existence. The pacing is excellent, allowing the mystery to grow and deepen while providing us with many amusing moments when we’re confronted by slightly bizarre behaviour.

But the problems for me develop the further into the film I go. Like so many films that create a mysterious, fantastical version of reality as a means of commenting on actual reality, the film doesn’t quite know where to go when our hero tries to break out of this place. And the escape sequence in particular raises never-answered questions which need not had been raised, had the thing been conceived differently.

The conclusion of the film leaves me thinking it’s more likely a portrait of the afterlife, rather than merely a (unsubtle) critique of materialism, but the ambiguous nature of the ending leaves it open to interpretation, which is a good thing.

This is certainly amusing and thought provoking. But it’s not as deep as it thinks it is, and its best moments come earlier in the film (with the exception of the suicide).


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