The film by the Norwegian J.Lien cannot complain about the lack of awards: it was noticed at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, and at two other festivals – in Athens and Gerardmer – it won the main prize. However, the abundance of awards did not prevent critics from interpreting The Bothersome Man (nor. Den brysomme mannen) in a very peculiar way. Lien’s film is considered a cross between dystopia and social drama, although it is obvious that we have before us a classic parable based not so much on Kafka as on the motives of Scandinavian mythology.
What does the title of the film mean?
The name under which the film is known in the English box office – “The Bothersome Man” – means only the literalism of the translator. The correct title of the film is “The Quarreling Man”, or even “The Man Hindering Others.”
Where does the film take place?
Although the world in which the protagonist finds himself very much resembles modern Western European society, it is obvious that this city cannot be found on any map. The fact that we are dealing with some kind of parallel reality is evidenced by the violation of physical laws, and the impossibility of death, and a strange way of transfer: the main character was not without reason amazed to see that the tracks of the bus that delivered him literally break off in an open field. Since Andreas enters this world after death, it is logical to assume that we have a paradise before us, however, very peculiar.
Heaven and hell in the Scandinavian tradition
Since from the point of view of Christianity, suicide is a mortal sin, and for the one who committed suicide, there can be no talk of any paradise, it is obvious that the hero of the film ended up in a pagan paradise. The pagan ancestors of today’s Norwegians and Icelanders, the warlike Vikings, continued in paradise the same earthly life with feasts and battles, only at a higher, so to speak, level.
It is logical that for our contemporaries, paradise life acquires familiar features of earthly existence: the same office, the same office equipment, the same streets, but there are no problems, everyone is smiling and happy. As for hell, here the director has not deviated a step from the mythological tradition. The kingdom of eternal cold, where Andreas was thrown out at the end of the film, is the Viking hell.
However, one should not attach too much importance to the mythological allusions of The Inappropriate Man: the images of the afterlife are nothing more than an invitation to reflect on the problems of earthly life.
Sterile indifference of the spectator society
Creating the image of an ideal other world, the director deliberately sharpens and brings to the point of absurdity the tendencies of the modern consumer society, with a special emphasis on two phenomena. The first is the alienation of people covered by formal politeness, their deep indifference to each other. Both of Andreas’ novels illustrate this tendency very well: even sex does not remove invisible barriers between people. In the world of otherworldly dystopia, people are near, but not together.
The second, even more indicative characteristic of this world is the impossibility of changing anything, being within a rigidly defined framework. It doesn’t matter what you want: get drunk, tell a dream, cut off your finger, kill yourself – you still won’t succeed. But a life in which a person does not decide anything, in which he cannot perform actions, is a surrogate, an illusion of being, and it is not surprising that in a heavenly city wine does not intoxicate, and food has no taste.
Why did Andreas try to commit suicide twice?
The film begins with a very important scene: the main character, haunted by the lovers kissing passionately at the metro station, jumps under the train. It can be assumed that the uninhibited couple was the last straw, that Andreas suffered from depression for a long time, but why was it kisses that drove him to a suicidal rampage?
The only possible answer suggests itself: engaging in a deeply intimate affair in the presence of a witness, the young people once again made it clear to Andreas that he was an empty place for them. And it was this that turned out to be unbearable for a person who had wanted to be seen as a separate person all his life.
This assumption is confirmed by the second, this time unsuccessful (for the dead cannot die) suicide of Andreas. He tries to kill himself again after Ingeborg’s ingenuous admission that everyone is the same to her. In other words, he is again seen as an empty space devoid of individuality, he is an easily replaceable faceless figure in a row of other figures. The same problems, from which Andreas “fled” to the next world, do not leave him in paradise, and he begins to look for a way out.
What is this weird hole that Andreas was trying to get into?
Almost from the first day of the hero’s stay in an ideal city, he becomes convinced of the presence of some kind of secret opposition to the existing order of things, even if this opposition is represented by a talkative plump man living in a basement.
An attempt to expand the mysterious hole in the wall, where the smells of food and music come from, ends for Andreas with exile to hell, but what kind of world did he end up in for a moment? Considering that all the inhabitants of the paradise city are dead, it can be assumed that Andreas looked into the house of living people, breaking the line between the worlds. For this crime, the main character of the film was punished.
Why are there no children in the city?
Andreas confesses to his boss that he lacks children. And in fact: the population of the city consists mostly of old people and middle-aged people, there are very few young people, and there are no children at all. It is curious that there was no place for children in the Valhalla of Vikings, although, most likely, in the universe of the film we are dealing with a banal reflection of statistics: in developed countries, people die in old and old age, and childhood deaths are extremely rare. So it is mostly old people who go to heaven.
However, the absence of children can be interpreted symbolically: in an ideal world, such an important component as the inner child is missing in the psyche of people. The inhabitants of the city have atrophied a part of the soul, embodying creativity, fantasy, irrational beginning, freshness of feelings. Infinite consumption took the place of children’s delight with the beauty and inexhaustibility of the world. In other words, the director hints that modern society can be viewed as a world of spiritual old people who have exhausted their potential for development.
What’s the point of the movie?
If we admit that the postmodern paradise of “The Inappropriate Man” is a satire on the modern Western society, the main idea of the film becomes quite transparent. The sterile world, in which there is neither love nor hate, and where human needs are reduced to the material sphere, is so disgusting with all its well-being that from it the only thing left is to run away to hell.
Yes, there will be no clean streets, no smiles on duty, but there will clearly not be a shortage of strong feelings and decisive actions. The boredom of a perfectly adjusted artificial life sooner or later leads to rebellion – and it’s good if at the level of individual citizens.