Arriving in Copenhagen today I was once again reminded of what unsettles me about the city. Earlier this year I watched a film called “A Bothersome Man”, which was something of a Norwegian ‘Groundhog Day’ but without the charm of Bill Murray’s saggy face and with more Ikea.
The plot follows the arrival a man in a city, both of them without context. He is given a good job, an office, and a place to stay. Everyone is incredibly nice. His work is easy. He starts dating a coworker. Soon they move in together and redecorate their flat with minimalist style. There is little conversation, there are few bright colours and there are many silent smiles.
But this unnamed man begins to get frustrated with his life: the hot chocolate doesn’t taste of much, as another anonymous heretic whispers in the men’s toilet. The sex is lifeless, and, it soon becomes apparent that his girlfriend exists solely to deliberate between slightly differently shades of teal tiles.
And the ‘Groundhog Day’ drama ensues. He throws himself under a train and is merely mangled for long awhile, before being returned in one piece to his blindly smiling lady. Similar episodes repeat themselves. He cannot escape. (Almost.)
When I watched the film it didn’t strike me as being particularly amazing. It was good, but it felt a bit pointedly metaphorical, like it was trying a tad too hard to be the iconic portrayal of modern alienation etc.
But. To get back on a pristine Danish metro tube and be passing all that very stylish, very well designed, very monotonous grey city – that powerfully evoked the emotional sensation that ‘The Bothersome Man’ inspires. More too, for knowing that all the imported, previously frozen, fruit and vegetables would lack just that crucial bit of flavour, and the low rise city buildings would never obstruct that continuous grey cap of clouds.
My meditations on the placidity of the Danish capital however, were somewhat jarred by the sight that greeted me leaving Forum Metro: thirty or so tall Danish cops in dark, padded vests with fuck-off shoulder pads milling around. Several were flanking a young man dressed in jack boots , black slacks and a black hoodie, photographing his lip-curl of a smile and pushing him into the back of a long navy van.
This city in its climate summit glory, it seemed, might throw up some surprises.