The Bothersome Man ***1/2
Directed by Jens Lien
Written by Per Schreiner
Trond Fausa Aurvaag as Andreas
Petronella Barker as Anne Britt
Per Schaaning as Hugo
Birgitte Larsen as Ingeborg
Johannes Joner as Håvard
Ellen Horn as Trulsen
95 Minutes(Not Rated-Mild Sex, Comic Violence)
If there was any justice in the world, I would say that "The Bothersome Man" was a shoe-in for a Best Foreign Film nomination at the Academy Awards next year. But I know that in the end, the award will go to somebody with a name. Someone more famous, and "The Bothersome Man" will disappear as quickly and easily as a needle in a haystack. In fact, I bet it doesn't even get a nomination, and this is the last time you will hear of this film. And it's a shame, because it really is fantastic. I didn't know what to expect walking in, and all I knew was that it was a film from Norway. But I didn't know how funny, I didn't know how smart, and I didn't know how visually great a film this was, as the events within it unfolded slowly, up to its bleak, yet hopeful in a way, finale.
"The Bothersome Man" begins with a man named Andreas being dropped off in front of a gas station in a strange and empty town. He is given a job as an accountant, and finds himself in a world where everyone seems to act the same, and nobody is bothered by how empty the town really is. Andreas notices, and even though he soon finds himself living with Anne Britt, a materialistic woman who he indulges in mechanical and passionless sex with every night, he still notices the lack of children and the lack of feeling that everyone has. He begins an affair with Ingeborg, the sexy co-worker who he finds out only uses him for pleasure, and is really seeing about four other men at work and in her apartment. Defeated and heartbroken, Andreas ends up bumping into an old man he saw in a bathroom once, and makes a startling surprise. There is a crack in his wall, and from it comes the most glorious and beautiful music. It reminds him of the past. It reminds him of what he is missing. And Andreas will stop at nothing until he can get through that crack.
I will admit that we've seen movies like this before. We've seen films that take place in a satirical society that is like our own but oddly different. We've seen films where one man, sometimes two, end up finding that they could stand together and get out of this. There's a ton of them-"Brazil," especially-and they are usually a commentary on our government and the direction it is heading. I don't know much about the Norway government, but I have thoughts that this is a take on them. But I always say that I don't mind a film with a plot that has been overdone if it is done well. If it is a story well told, and "The Bothersome Man" is that and more. Director Jens Lien has a massive amount of talent, and the visual look of the film is beautiful. Almost every shot is eye candy, and the script by Per Schreiner is even a bigger treat. This film has several moments of black comedy gold, including a very long sequence involving a train, and Andreas eventual discovery of what is inside of the hole in the wall. I was laughing harder than I have in a while-next to "Superbad," but that's a different type of comedy.
I like how the film takes its time telling the story. The crack in the wall plot couldn't have introduced itself until after the hour mark, but the beginning really does adjust you to this society. And if you go in not having seen a single frame of the film-like myself-the events will unfold and confuse you at first. What am I watching? you will ask. So where is Andreas? Is isn't in this world, that's for sure. He must be in a hellish underworld, punished for something he did in real life. Whatever it is he doesn't know, and we certainly don't know, but he knows that he is missing something, and he knows that he is not that far from getting it back. "The Bothersome Man" does not have a happy ending, but it doesn't end on a bleak note. It is unfinished. What will Andreas find on the next leg of his journey? But it ends on a perfect note, never overstaying its welcome, but there isn't anywhere to go from there. Has he escaped, or will he never get out? Why would he want to? Everything seems to perfect.