If there's a utopian society out there mirroring The Bothersome Man 's setting, then keep me far, far away.
This Norwegian mystery (Den Bryssome Mannen) from director Jens Lien blends equal parts pitch-black comedy and stiff horror in an effort to unsettle and frustrate the viewer. The Bothersome Man is successful in its task, and I liked its gallant accomplishment. If you're in the mood for a stringent film experience that's not wholly enjoyable or vibrant, then this taut and calculating portrait looking inwards upon a disconcerting paradise might just be the ticket.
As you can imagine about a film featuring this disjointed rapture, our lead character Andreas starts off rather confused. A bus has anonymously dropped him off in the middle of nowhere with nothing but his tattered clothing and a full beard at his disposal. Once at his destination, he sees a welcome sign hovering above a dilapidated gas station with rocky terrain and dirt pressed against the dim blue skyline. Before he knows it, he's snatched up by a few official looking workers, dropped off at a new apartment, and told that he starts his new job at a set location in the morning. Judging by the new duds and the possessions on his back, Andreas is warmly accepting of slipping into this new opportunity. He reports to his occupational position the next morning, a job set to accomplish downscale accounting work. It's all a little bland, but stands like a rock with permanence.
Quickly, Andreas become aware that something is off within the town. Everyone, and everything, seems vapid and without emotive tendencies. Food lacks flavor, drinks lack potency, and sex doesn't satisfy. Sights of gushing blood and horrific accidents don't cause the citizens of this town to light up nearly as much as discussion about furniture and bathtubs. Bizarrely, if something ghastly happens, the same familiar guys come and rapidly sweep up the mess. Furthermore, relationships seem frail and without an emotive bridge between two individuals. This begins to wear on the freshly deposited Andreas. He begins to spiral downwards as he attempts to syringe as much of the evocative nature from this city as possible. It's only within this solemn music playing within a dimly lit window that he begins to see a light at the end of his dark tunnel.
What portrays happiness more for you in life, solidity or sensation? That's the question The Bothersome Man tackles in an uncomfortably quirky fashion. But the quirkiness isn't off-putting. Quite the opposite, actually; this awkward dissection of humanity's focus on surface accomplishment and emotional importance intrigued me quite a bit. The importance of furniture, for some odd reason, repeated gave me the chuckles. The Bothersome Man's utopian world continues to revolve at the mere sight of spilled blood, but the universe stops when someone makes a decision about a couch. Brilliant.
Part of what gives this film its strength is within an acute visual conception. Vibrant colors and abstract architecture couldn't have done this film justice. Instead, we're focused on a glaringly institutional vision, devoid of practically all color except a beautifully soft myriad of blue, tan, and gray tints. Though this seems like an easy effort to punch the heartlessness of this world into our minds, it actually helps the humor show a little more color within it darkened depths. This is a good thing, because the humor behind The Bothersome Man is hard-to-swallow timing in the highest order.
Speaking of the film's humorous elements, Andreas is a compellingly quiet and airy character. Trond Fausa Aurvang ensnares a facial demeanor vaguely reminiscent to that of Buster Keaton's silent comedic eccentricities. He can strike a little humor in you with the simplest vapid grimace or wide-eyed glance of shock. Much like a trapped mouse within a maze, Andreas looks very claustrophobic within his new surroundings. He's neither terribly contemplative nor calculating, but rather observant and concentrated.
Once Andreas starts to sink further into this peculiar realm, our bizarre turn of events continue to get more and more uncomfortable and, more importantly, quite sad. Mild comedy starts to upscale into that awkward, gut-wrenching demeanor amidst fizzling romances and declining patience with the population's heartlessness. Instead of staying invested for enjoyment sake, you want to stick with the film to see how Andreas' fate pans out. Plus, we get a taste of horror and suspense elements littered throughout, whether we realize them to be such or not.
I felt compelled to stay firmly afloat with this even after heavily waning levels of reward and hope. The Bothersome Man is a wholly engaging curiosity, albeit crushingly cold and disheartening. For a film emphasizing the importance of emotive warmth and directive choice within society, it's surprisingly frigid. However, the solid craftsmanship with our observant narrative style stiffly holds our focus until we discover the extent of its icy roots.
Film Movement, a monthly film service, presents this edition of The Bothersome Man in a clear keepcase DVD with artwork on the inside of the generic coverart.
Lots of beautifully captured scenes wedge into The Bothersome Man's anamorphic widescreen presentation. As mentioned before, this color palette stands fairly devoid of any warmth, leaning towards a harsh rainbow scaling from grayish blues to deadweight tans. Even with such a limited palette, the range of these shades is quite staggering. Minor details, like paneling on buildings and plant leaves, all echo with strength. Each and every ounce of the Icelandic setting is staggeringly beautiful. The image does reflect its lower budget roots, but the stellar photography in the film more than swallows up this discrepancy. You'll be pleasantly surprised with this transfer.
Not nearly as impressive, though still quite strong, is The Bothersome Man's Norwegian Dolby stereo track. In general, all vocal and mild sound effects elements, including a bit of hammer-on-stone action, filled the speakers with some quality detail. What stands out well is the nicely implemented musical numbers. The entire score is a great match for The Bothersome Man. English subtitles are optional.
We're not working with much here in the extras, save some actor Biographies, a Scene Selection, and previews for other Film Movement pieces. Another side piece, however, is its monthly short film, entitled True Story by Stephanie J. Via. It's a short work that tells a nicely impacting yarn about a reminiscent elderly woman's childhood cat.
The Bothersome Man kept me sucked in and focused from Andreas' original drop off to his ultimate conclusion. It's a cold, uneasy dish to consume, but it should provide you with some great Twilight Zone vibes within its sociological critique on aesthetic focus and void emotionalism. Plus, the sparse, vastly dark humor makes watching our protagonist's deconstruction at times both pleasant and disturbing. The Bothersome Man is a firmly Recommended piece of gloomy cinema.
Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site