THE BOTHERSOME MAN
(Den Brysomme Mannen)
The Bothersome Man taps into a sense of very black humour that is frequently called uniquely Scandinavian something that is mordant, almost hysterical in its deadpan understatement and bleakly pessimistic in the face of matters like death. If you want to make filmic comparisons, you could perhaps call The Bothersome Man something like Albert Brooks afterlife comedy Defending Your Life (1991) as directed either by Swedish director Roy Andersson of Songs from the Second Floor (2000) and You, the Living (2007) or Denmarks enfant terrible Lars von Trier in the blackly comic tone of films like The Kingdom (1994) or The Boss Of It All (2006). Or perhaps the film that the very similar American-made Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006), which came out the same year, should have been.
The Bothersome Man is set in an afterlife that seems very much like the world that we are used to people live in apartments, work in offices, drive modern cars and the like but one that comes with an almost imperceptible sense of disquiet. It is the modernist city as anti-utopia one where everything comes cleanly and blandly lit, where people seem to spend just a little too much time discussing interior decoration or being concerned for Trona Fausa Aurvaags wellbeing.
There is a very oblique sense of black humour lurking beneath it all the man who removes the welcome sign at the outpost in the middle of nowhere before Aurvaag has even properly arrived; the body fallen impaled on a series of railings with its entrails hanging out as people walk past in the street. This soon starts to reach the positively hysterical. Trona Fausa Aurvaag announces to Petronella Barker: Im going to leave you, which gets the perfectly calm response But we have guests Saturday ... Are you going to leave before Saturday? The announcement that he wants to move in with Brigitte Larsen and the conversation he has in trying to pin her down and say that she prefers him to all the other men comes with equally funny regard. The scene where Aurvaag tries to jump from the underground platform and survives being run over by a train, only to keep being run over by other trains as he gets up bloodied and broken is absolutely side-splitting.
At no point does the film ever come out and let us know for certain that we are in the afterlife. For that matter, we are never ever told the reason behind Trona Fausa Aurvaag initially wanting to commit suicide in that he sees the same couple making out in the background on the same platform both times he jumps in front of the train, you could perhaps construct some kind of theory that he is caught in a Groundhog Day (1993)-like timeloop.
In many ways, you can read The Bothersome Man as an allegory about malcontents in Utopia. Various Scandinavian societies are often pointed to as the ideal model of a liberal society that maintains concern for the welfare of all its citizenry. By the time of the scene near the end where the elders of the subtly disquiet utopia come and look on Trona Fausa Aurvaag with disappointment, you can also read the film as one where a person is lamenting their inability to fit into a perfect society that feels like it has done everything it can to accommodate him and make him happy, but which has also become stifling in the banality of its conformity.
Jens Lien subsequently went onto make Sons of Norway (2011), a non-genre black comedy Coming of Age tale set around the punk era.