The man is expected. He is dropped from the bus in the middle of nowhere, and taken from the middle of nowhere to the beginning of the journey. The journey begins in a city he knows nothing about, inside a house he can’t call his own, hired by firm he never heard about. But he is expected. The man is going be an accountant, no fuss about it. Everybody is counting on this man, except the man himself – he will only count the days missing for the weekend or the life to finish.
He may feel uneasy about his first day of work, but the body betrays him in more ways than one. Has he been here before? There’s a recognizable choreography in each movement of his fingers when typing the computer at work; or the mechanical rhythm when having sex with an interior designer he has just met (and will eventually marry). Will it do, this life of tidiness, comfort and boredom? Everything fits nicely, no fuss about it: typecast work, average sex, regular meals. What should a man do, why should he ask for more? Likewise: should he bother?
Shot in the desolate landscape of Iceland and urban-city Norway, The Bothersome Man [Den Brysomme Mannen] is the tale of a middle-of-the-road-man who wanted to cross the street and smell the coffee – literally. There’s no smell or children in this world. The food lacks flavour, the women lack love, the whisky lacks alcohol, the spirit misses gravity, risk and danger. When the bothersome man finally meets a soul mate in the toilet of a bar, we know he’s going to get himself in trouble. “I’ve wasted my whole month’s salary in booze today, and nothing happens!” the sober man complains. The quiet uproar of Edvard Grieg’s music over the movie works beautifully, like a storm creeping into a child’s dream. But without the child, of course.
Where are we going? Why are we here? What’s on TV today? These are the existential dilemmas that pop into our minds while being challenged, or somewhat bothered, by The Bothersome Man, the second feature film by the Norwegian Jens Lien (who went to London to play rock ‘n’ roll and returned as an accomplished filmmaker). This is not supposed to be a very joyful movie, but it manages to be a very enjoyable experience, as witnessed in its world-premiere in Cannes and now in Arsenals’ Riga 2006. There’s a little bit of Kafka in here, a brush of Monty Python over there, and neither inspiration endangers the familiarity of the subject. In one of the crucial scenes, the bothersome man decides to commit suicide in the subway: he throws himself under the train once, twice and three times, before being delivered home, unfit, to his wife. “Do you want to kart-race with our friends next weekend?” she asks him vaguely.
The Bothersome Man looks like a sad Nordic drama, but it feels like a bittersweet comedy too. It’s fun and sorrow, like spiced-up popcorn with a twist of lemon. The winner of Arsenals 2006, in Riga, Latvia, is not unlike The Truman Show – but it’s more like a true man’s quest for freedom or just free will. And in real free life, there will be certainly no time for commercials.