Den Brysomme Mannen (The Bothersome Man) (Jens Lien, 2006)
Den Brysomme Mannen, released in English as The Bothersome Man, is a movie that, I confess, I started watching a few weeks ago and shut off in the middle. It gets a lot of good press among people I respect, so I was wondering if I was simply missing out on whatever it is that made them praise it so much. You see, the first half of this movie is boring. Immensely, mind-shatteringly boring. Lien obviously subscribes to the James Joyce method (a term I use in re: “The Dead”, as in “if you want to write a story about boring people, write a boring story”). And I can understand why he sets it up like this; he’s trying to show that life in this nameless city where Andreas (Lilyhammer‘s Trond Fausa Aurvaag) finds himself ends up driving him to make the decisions he makes in the much superior second half of the movie. But, my fillets of lutefisk, man, did you have to make it that boring?
Plot: Andreas, in the film’s opening scene, is standing on a train platform. The only other people there are a scary-looking couple who are entirely engrossed in one another. He throws himself off…and then we cut to him riding a bus in the middle of nowhere. Has he committed suicide and is now on his way to the afterlife? Is this a flashback to “how I got here”? We don’t know. (While the specifics are eventually revealed, here’s a SPOILER ALERT for you: even after Lien shows us the details, we’re still not sure. It’s one of the movie’s moments of real brilliance.) In any case, Andreas is dropped off at a little filling station, where he’s picked up by a very old car and taken to what, on the surface, seems like the perfect city—every inhabitant’s needs are completely met, everyone has a job that seems perfect for him, etc. (If this sounds familiar, it should; writer Per Schreiner, turning in his first feature script, was obviously influenced by such classic conform-or-die scenarios as Camazotz and Metropolis.) But Andreas soon notices that with this contentment comes a discontent that, seemingly, only he is capable of noticing—everything is flat. Food has no taste, the atmosphere has no smell. He wonders if it’s just him until a chance encounter in a restaurant men’s room makes him realize that’s not the case, and for the next few weeks he tries to battle the growing disenchantment he feels at knowing he’s not the only one who notices this…
…at which point we get into spoiler territory. Which sucks, because that’s the exact point when this movie starts getting very, very good. And I can’t tell you why, because the pivotal decision Andreas makes exactly halfway through the film is, as far as this movie goes, the spoiler to end all spoilers. It’s also the gateway to the movie’s funniest scenes and the plot really taking off—it’s here that the movie stops seeming like “The Dead” and heads into the territory of such wonderful dystopian worlds as Delicatessen, of which the second half of this movie put me in mind more than once for no reason I can quite put my finger on.
If the entire film had been as good as the second half is, I’d be calling it an instant classic and adding it pretty high up in my top 1000 movies of all time list. Unfortunately, however, you have to get through the first half to get to the second. ** ½
Trailer. Once again, we go subless.