Jens Lien

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

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Jens Lien (Norway, 1967)

Den Brysomme Mannen/ The Bothersome Man (2006), adapted from Per Schreiner's radio play, is set in an unidentified place that feels a lot like an afterlife. People live like zombies, nobody ever showing the slightest emotion, disciplined and polite like robots. They live a dull life immersed into a sterilized city. The protagonist seems to have no past, or, at least, no memory of it, but somehow he has been sent to this place, whose urban and human landscape feel like punishment for anyone who is still capable of emotions. Lien straddles the border between comedy and tragedy, turning Jacques Tati's satire of modernity and Buster Keaton's nonsensical slapsticks into existentialist tragedy and framing it (beginnig and ending) within a blatant tribute to Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas) and a general tribute to Kafka's fiction. Some of the scenes indulge in gruesome details and seem like a comic parody of the horror genre. The tone is therefore uneven, and the metaphysical is never quite such.

A man and a woman are kissing passionately in a subway. Another man stares at them and then jumps into the railway as the train is coming. In a gas station surrounded by a vast deserted plain, as the storm approaches, a man fixes a banner that says "Welcome". A bus arrives from the long straight road. It carries only one passenger, the man who committed suicide, Andreas. The man of the gas station drives him to town and tells him that he is supposed to be working as an accountant in a local firm. Andreas meets his boss Havard in the impeccably clean and ordered building. He then walks in the clinically clean streets of the city. Silence reigns everywhere. Andreas, however, sees right away the first sign that something is not right: a man who committed suicide by jumping from a window and whose body got stuck in the spikes of a railing. He is the only one to be shocked: passers-by are indifferent. In the evening Andreas tries a bar. In the restrooms he meets two men, one who complains that nothing tastes good in that city, and another one who has locked himself in a stall and complains that he spent all his money trying to get drunk but the city's alcohol does not work. At work Andreas accidentally severes one of his fingers. Nobody is particularly shocked, his colleagues calmly observe the scene, he is ashamed by his mistake and apologizes. His colleagues give him a ride home, where he realizes that there is nothing wrong with his finger. He returns to the gas station in the countryside to watch unseen as the same bus brings another passenger, welcomed by the same man. The following morning Andreas is at work as if nothing happened. One evening he meets a sexy interior designer, Anna, at a boring dinner and invites her out. They have sex and soon he move in with her into an apartment that they begin to remodel. One day he tries to tell her a dream that caused him a great emotion, and she refuses to listen. Hurt by her indifference towards his life, Andreas starts dating a girl from the office, Ingeborg. She doesn't seem upset that he is living with another woman. Eventually, Andreas breaks the news to Anna. They discuss the day of the separation like a business deal. At night Andreas shows up under Ingeborg's window with a bunch of flowers and drives her, dressed in her pajama, to a fancy restaurant where they are the only customers. All of this to announce that he has left Anna for her so they don't have to meet in secret anymore. Ingeborg is hardly pleased. She confesses that she is having affairs with a colleague, a neighbor, etc. He would like to move in with her but she thinks all her men are equally nice. She only wants a bigger house. Andreas, devastated, takes the stairs to the subway and jumps in front of the train... except that he survives, despite being run over and dragged around by multiple trains (none of which stops). Covered in blood, he walks out of the subway, and then is found by his company's car and driven to Anna's apartment. She doesn't even notice his bloody face and simply tells him that they have been invited to an evening of go-karting. By that evening, he has healed of all wounds. Then one night, as he is walking around town, he hears the sound of a violin coming from a basement. He sneaks inside and finds the drunk of the restrooms, who begs him not to tell anyone: there's a crack in the wall and from that crack they can hear this music. At work Andreas complains to Havard that there are no children in that city. Again he calls Anna to tell her that he will be late, but this time, armed with jackhammer and powerdrill, his date is not with a woman but with the crack in the wall. Andreas sets out to enlarge the hole so that he can crawl into it (and presumably escape from this city). The drunk finds him and is scared of what might happen. At work Andreas gets fired. He can now devote all his time to the basement, extending the hole day after day until finally they hear, on the other side of the hole, chldren at play. The noise and the smell draws suspecting neighbors. Andreas finally breaks into someone's living room from which regular smells and sounds are coming, but just then they are arrested. The drunk begs to be forgiven. Andreas is taken to a courtyard where a woman tells him that people there are happy (the people around her nod but neither smile nor move). Andreas is driven back to the gas station in the countryside, while the crack in the wall is being hermetically plugged and sealed. The bus unloads a new passenger while Andreas is unceremoniously loaded into the luggage compartment. Every bump in the road is painful but Andreas' reward is that he can hear an opera singer. Anna is already having dinner with a new man, the drunk has taken a job as a janitor, Ingeborg is dating yet another man while Andreas is freezing to death under the bus. When the bus stops, Andreas breaks out of the luggage compartment and finds himself in the middle of an arctic storm. Sons of Norway (2011),
(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )