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Jens Lien • Director

The dark side of "the Ikea life"


- Aspiring rock star Jens Lien rocks the image of Scandinavian social democracy and model of well-being, using fantasy as a genre to freely explore his visual and narrative style

Jens Lien • Director

His absurd and satirical look at everyday life, already explored with scriptwriter Per Schreiner and actor Trond Fausa Aurvåg in the short film Shut the Door, is successfully brought to its full length with The Bothersome Man [+see also:
film review
interview: Jens Lien
interview: Jørgen Storm Rosenberg
film profile

Cineuropa : What was the film’s starting point?
Jens Lien : The story was written by my colleague Per Schreiner, with whom I’ve been working for eight years. We made two short films together that were shown in competition at Cannes (Shut the Door in 2000 and Natural Glasses in 2001). The Bothersome Man uses the same style. I liked the whole nightmarish scene, where you can use a lot of dramatic elements, both visual and weird. The film is actually based on Schreiner’s radio play so we had to change a lot, make the story bigger. What also attracted me in the story was the portrait of Scandinavian society, the Ikea kind of life, a society that tries to be so perfect that it loses something along the way.

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How did you cast Trond Fausa Aurvåg in the lead?
I had already made Shut the Door with him. He just fit the part perfectly and I love his humour. He takes in everything with a dead calm. We used specific techniques to get a kind of distance between what happens and the character himself. We asked him to invent different stories to specific scenes to have a kind of glare in his eyes.

Was it hard to find the right balance between comedy and gore, slapstick and drama?
Not really. I read the story that way and really wanted that static, distant feeling when Andreas arrives in the city, and wanted the violent scenes to be very violent to offer a strong contrast, as if he were jetlagged when it all happened to him. It’s so grotesque that he can’t understand what’s going on and I think this contrast makes the whole film even more frightening. Also, in the scene where he throws himself in front of the train, it’s like the emotions he’s going through, although he doesn’t show his emotions. He’s silently falling apart. This scene shows what he’s going through inside. Hitting and hitting and hitting.

The setting (in particular at the beginning) and the choice of colours work perfectly in re-creating this world of the living dead.
It took us a long time to find the perfect locations. The art director was the first guy we hired of the crew and he went out for eight months just taking photos of Oslo from different angles. We put them together to create a universe, taking away all lively things. We found streets without trees, old buildings to show that there had been a history there and new buildings as well. The choice of colours came as we were working but I wanted to make a very stylistic work, use film language and make the visual part really strong. In Norway, we don’t really have the money or capacity to make visual films. We have a camera and just tend to follow the action, but I wanted to build up that action. So I was really prepared for the visual part and I took a very long time to cast all the characters, to get that realistic afterlife feeling. On the radio play it’s said clearly where he is, but in the film we took it out so it’s up to the audience to find out. It says that he comes to hell. But I wanted to leave it open. For some people it’s just an absurd universe.

Are there any specific filmmakers that have influenced your work?
The Coen brothers, as well David Lynch and, of course, Roy Andersson.

What message do you want to communicate to audiences?
What I liked was the portrait of this society. Many scenes are based on how we are in Norway. Of course, it was taken to an extreme, but sometimes it is like that and you ask yourself: is it me or them who’s crazy? People in the film just want to have a smooth life, and nothing disturbs them.

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