We have had a lot of fun with some extraordinarily bizarre and interesting movies that will make you think on this site over the past ten years. (TEN YEARS?!? No offense, but I only just stumbled across this site. NO WORRIES, you are welcome too!!) Today’s movie, The Bothersome Man, a Norwegian film (yeah, you have to read, get over it) reminds me of a lot of different films – but the two films that most come to mind are Remainder, and We’ve Forgotten More Than We Already Knew. Hey, new guy – the one that only just arrived, do you see what I did there? Just like candy getting tossed to kids, I just threw you two brilliant mind job movies that’ll have you thinking for days. Like it was nothing. And, better yet, you’ve never heard of either of them. Stick around a bit, and maybe we’ll widen your concept of what films can be all about. Trust me. You’ll see. The Bothersome Man Made Intelligible…
Anyway, The Bothersome Man is interesting in that, while its similar to other movies, it’s doing something deep and profound, and really existential. If, that is, you can be bothered to try and grok it. If you haven’t seen it – trailer – and then you’ll need to leave, because the rest of this post is going to be 100% spoilers.
Plot Walkthrough of The Bothersome Man
The movie opens with Andreas Ramsfjell (played by Trond Fausa Aurvåg) walking through an underground train station. And there, importantly, a couple kiss. The kiss is 100% devoid of emotion, or passion, and is totally just a physical interaction. Just more of a dual licking than a kiss… I wouldn’t even call it a snog, as that assumes too much emotional connection for what that was. Anyway, this weird interaction sends Andreas into a tailspin, and he jumps onto the tracks in front of a coming train.
Cut to, Andreas on a bus, traveling out in the middle of nowhere…an almost lunar level of desolation. The bus drops him off at a gas station, where he is met by a single person welcoming committee. The man then takes Andreas to a modern wonderland of a city, replete with a home, a job, and even a fantastic girlfriend (played by Petronella Barker). Andreas is instantly kickstarted back into the perfect life! One day, while at his job, Andreas cuts his finger off, but a little later that day, it has grown back again. Soon after, the monotony of life really beings wearing Andreas down. Literally the only thing they find themselves doing is perpetually redesigning and reworking their house. I don’t like the white of the front room. Etc., etc. And Andreas isn’t buying in on the idea of endless materialism. (Buying couches, that match the coral, buying couches that match the white…you know the drill.)
A little while later – Andreas, not able to sleep, begins telling his girlfriend about a dream he had, a dream that included a moose. But Anne-Britt isn’t having any of it. She doesn’t understand what he’s doing, and she’d like him to stop it. Soon Andreas is intrigued by another woman at the office, Ingeborg, who he asks out to the movies. He lies to Anne-Britt about the movie, and takes Ingeborg to see a very sad film, wherein, he is the only one emotionally moved by the film. It would seem that Andreas is the only person capable of any sort of emotional response to anything. I mean, here, this is the perfect example:
Andreas: “I’ve met someone.”
Anne-Britt: “What do you mean?”
Andreas: “Another woman.”
Andreas: “I fell in love with someone at work. I didn’t plan to.”
Anne-Britt: “I thought we were happy.”
Andreas: “We were. But then I fell in love.”
Andreas: “I’m going to leave you.”
Anne-Britt: “We’re having guests on Saturday.”
After leaving Anne-Britt, Andreas attempts to convince this new woman to move in together, but she is non-committal and dispassionate about everything. I like everyone, she says. But having a third bedroom and a bath would be a benefit she guessed. And this sends Andreas over the edge…to that suicidal state that we first see him in at the beginning of the movie. Doing a swan dive in front of a subway train. But, the train doesn’t kill him. he just keeps getting hit by train after train. Until eventually, he’s able to stumble out from tracks, hobbling, cut, and bleeding. Eventually, he’s found wandering the streets, and brought back to Anne-Britt…who greets him…bloodied, and an absolute mess, with the question: “We’ve been invited go-cart racing, do you want to go?”
Andreas is just emotionally floored by the enormous superficiality of the world around him.
Soon after, Andreas meets a cleaner named Hugo, who has found a crack in the wall of his basement, from which, beautiful music streams from. The two begin digging in order to see where it will take them, and what the source of the music is all about. They notice that through the hole is a house, that they assume is back in the real world. You know, the far away place that still has babies? That world. Eventually, Andreas and Hugo dig their way to where they can smell something. Something better. But as a result, suddenly he finds someone that looks just like him, and he finds out that his boss has fired him. Andreas suspects that the authorities are coming for him, he flees back to the respite of his tunnel. Others begin to suspect something is up, and they want to join in…I mean, they can smell the smell, and they hear the noise. Why can’t they help?
Eventually, Andreas’ arm is able to reach into the house, where he manages to steal some cake that is sitting on the kitchen counter. But just as Andreas grabs a handful of cake, the authorities come and take the two men away. Then, Andreas is taken to some city officials that need to decide just exactly what they should do with Andreas.
One of the authorities wanders over to the window of the car where Andreas is sitting and says, “Most people are happy here Andreas. They think it’s a nice city, they have everything they need. People are happy. The majority of the people are happy. And we are proud of that.” Then they have Andreas shipped back out to the bus stop where he originally came in, and they drop him there to wait for the coming bus. Meanwhile, workers concrete over the hole that Andreas has made. And after a violent, jolting ride, Andreas arrives at a dusty tundra of a location. Which is when the credits roll.
The Meaning of Life, the Universe and The Bothersome Man
There is a continuum through which we can view The Bothersome Man. At one end of the spectrum is the literal view. Literally, Andreas is living in this weird world, with weird bus rides, and weird people. At the other end of the spectrum is more of an allegorical view of this movie. There is no bus. There is no weird world wherein the inhabitants feel nothing, see nothing, hear nothing, sense nothing. It’s just a story to illustrate a deeper meaning. Could the real meaning of this movie be at the extremes of this continuum? I guess. But it’s most likely we’ll find the real meaning somewhere along this continuum, in the blur and blend between these two ideas. The real question? Where do you think we should land on this continuum? It’s really up to you.
The Bothersome Man – Literal Explanation
If this movie is what is really, literally happening – this thing is awesome! Andreas is trapped in a society of unknown location and origin. His attempts to get out are blocked at every turn. And in this city, the entirety of the populace are conspiring to make life perfect for Andreas. His job is so sterilely perfect that he doesn’t really even need to account for his comings and goings.
Also, the city has outlawed dreaming. It has banned rich smells, beautiful works of art, and good food. Worse, it’s done this solely to convince Andreas that he’s going mad. Which, has worked perfectly, because the next thing we know, he’s pick-axing his way through some poor guy’s basement wall in search of a way out of the city.
If this really is what this movie is about – then the only real explanation is Aliens. Or, I guess, another possibility is that the globe has taken up the task of punking this poor guy. (Can you imagine if the entire globe was called in to participate in a punking of you specifically? Woah.) But in spite of the fun involved in considering this possibility – it just can’t really be. We are given no evidence that that is what is happening. No alien writing found in the trash. No view behind the staged play going on in front of Andreas. No, I think we have to consider that there might be a different explanation.
The Bothersome Man – A Morality Tale
First, let’s consider the title…in Norwegian, Den brysomme mannen – or The Bothersome Man. What is bothersome about him? Well, he’s a splinter in the foot of society. He is someone that is refusing to go with the socially acceptable flow of things. He talks about his dreams, that moose, he tells of his dissatisfaction. He yearns for something more. Something more real. Something satisfying. Because here, in this slick, technicolored hue of a city, nothing feels, impacts, or resounds. It’s as if this bothersome man has arrived from somewhere else, and he has sensed that he has lost something deeper. Bigger. And actually, when the movie started with a suicide, I first assumed he left our world, and arrived in some sort of higher level of Dante’s Inferno. Some nether region. A place where he would be forced to make penance. But when we learned that this was actually the middle of the movie, it took my legs out from under me. Why? Because I was so certain that that was the correct view of this movie.
Instead, Andreas just longs for something real. He’s never seen it before. He’s never felt it before. But he’s aware that there is something more. And it’s because of that, that I’m going to call Andreas our Philosopher. The philosopher’s job through truth. And Andreas is our bothersome man solely because he is making this world aware of his utter ennui caused by this inherent lack. You know that word? Ennui? I mean it’s perfect: “Listlessness and dissatisfaction caused by a lack of excitement.” Or, what about taedium vitae?
And yet, this morality tale seems to be something bigger here than just terminal boredom. Yes, depression is bad. But is this movie talking about something deeper here? Granted, Andreas is tired of the materialistic explanations that this society perpetually attempt to give as the meaning of life. Crushed morally? Get a new coral kitchen!! Desiring a purpose for your lap around the sun? Why not come on down to the couch barn!?
Think about it. Andreas takes part in the new rituals of this life with abandon at first. He’s given a perfectly easy job, with a perfectly lenient boss. He’s handed a beautiful girlfriend, in a nice flat, and a very perfect existence. Sex? Enough money? Structured leisure? Heck, even all his friends are perfectly nice. Everything has come together perfectly for Andreas. So, why the despair?
The Deeper Possibilities of The Bothersome Man
Set aside the movie. Today, in your own life. Right now. I don’t know where you are reading this from… (probably at work, when you should be doing that report for your boss…who was perfectly nice enough when you first met him…) but you are discontent. I’m not a crystal ball reader. It’s just a fact. The human species is characterized best by its full-on discontentedness. Those shoes you worked for 3 months to buy, lost their luster 2 days after getting them. That amazing new house you got 2 years ago, you know the one, with the master bathroom, with the his and hers sinks and his and her toilets, and his and her showers. That one! WOAH. So great. Until you quickly became accustomed to it, and now it’s not quite as nice as your buddy’s new house. The one with his and her jacuzzis. Or what have you. Heck, maybe you’d kill for a lock on your front door. I’ve been to hundreds of houses in my life without windows, without doors, without any sense of safety. Regardless, you are discontent.
It isn’t your house that is the problem though. It isn’t the shoes. The longing that swirls inside of you is more a symptom of a break from how you were made, than it is a desire for something new and different. The Greeks might call it the desire for the perfect. You see, they saw the gods as the epitome of the perfect life. They literally assumed art here on earth was imperfect. The idea of the perfect circle? That was a divine concept. They also thought that perfection wasn’t attainable this side of death. From a Christian perspective, in the creation poem of Genesis, we are shown how we were made perfectly, and then we broke that perfection through our sin. And it was through this sin that we were separated from the thing we were made for – which was communion with God. Religion has spoken to this rift for millennia.
So, could it be, that our poor Andreas is pointing out the flaws of our societies – and the futile logic upon which they are built? Maybe he is telling us that to consider perfection, or the thing we were made for, that that is a thought worth being branded insane for. Maybe our Bothersome Man is a type of Christ. Or maybe Philosopher King. Someone the comes to the blind and stumbling masses and tries to get them to turn and look at what is really happening around us. Remember the words of the city official who said, “Most people are happy here Andreas. They think it’s a nice city, they have everything they need. People are happy. The majority of the people are happy. And we are proud of that.” Trust me on this one though – following the masses, mindlessly, is not a path worth living. Andreas is telling us to think critically even if branded insane as a result.
Life pro tip? Maybe we should take Andreas’ advice. Especially if you are finding yourself relating too well with the word ennui. Chase the truth. Seek for that perfect circle. Scour life until it reveals the secrets for that divine connection with your creator.
Edited by: CY