3 stars (out of four)
Perhaps "The Bothersome Man"--a nerve-janglingly odd film directed by Norwegian newcomer Jens Lien--is set in hell. Perhaps it is set in a heaven gone terribly wrong, a would-be paradise of sterile modernist decor where everything is provided for, people live empty, predictable lives and where at least one man, Andreas, is cracking up. Or perhaps the film is simply Lien and scriptwriter Per Schreiner's satiric view of modern urban Norway, with despair pulsing away below the frozen calm surface.
Actually it's all of the above--a simple but cryptic story done so sparely, precisely and often wordlessly, that it flows by like a bad dream.
We first see the central character, harried-looking Andreas (Trond Fausa Aurvag), watching two lovers engaged in loveless-looking public necking in a subway station. A scene that will be repeated later. Suddenly Andreas jumps before the oncoming train and, just as suddenly and strangely, he is being dropped off, alive and unhurt, by a bus at a lonely looking cafe in the desert. A chatty driver takes him to the city (Oslo, unidentified) and to his new job: accountant in a prosperous-looking firm of vague purpose. There, his boss, Havard (Johannes Joner), greets Andreas with cool friendliness, and his co-workers behave with opaque amiability.
Soon Andreas is in an arranged-marriage-style relationship with a mild-mannered, single-minded interior designer, Anne-Britt (Petronella Barker), and an illicit love affair with Ingeborg (Birgitte Larsen), his bizarrely compliant mistress from the office. But for all his comfortable routine, and undemanding life, Andreas remains disturbed by the absence of children, by the tastelessness of the food, the joylessness of the sex, and the strange dead lassitude of everyone and everything around him. He begins to explore dangerous territory, beginning with a mysterious crack in acquaintance Hugo's (Per Schaaning) cellar room.
"The Bothersome Man," a multiple award winner at international film festivals, is full of cool nightmare imagery, by a moviemaker with a lot of talent. If you're familiar with movie science-fiction dystopias (or anti-utopias), all the way from Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" to Jean-Luc Godard's "Alphaville" to George Lucas' "THX 1138" and Andrew Niccol's "Gattaca," much of it will strike overfamiliar chords. But this movie is made with formidable assurance, a compelling look, quiet skill and impressive economy. Hell, heaven or dark mirror of urban yuppie life today, Lien's "Bothersome" vision makes you feel Andreas' cold sweat and quiet desperation--which may be our own as well.
'The Bothersome Man'
Directed by Jens Lien; screenplay by Per Schreiner; photographed by John Christian Rosenlund; edited by Vidar Flataukan; music by Ginge Anvik; production design by Are Sjaastad; produced by Jorgen Storm Rosenberg. In Norwegian, with English subtitles. A Film Movement release; opens Friday at Facets Multimedia. Running time: 1:35. No MPAA rating. Adult. For language, sexual and adult themes, violence.
Andreas - Trond Fausa Aurvag
Anne-Britt - Petronella Barker
Ingeborg - Birgitte Larsen
Hugo - Per Schaaning
Havard - Johannes JonerCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times