One of the recurrent images in Norwegian films produced in the 2000s is that of the socially inhibited male protagonist suffering from various psychiatric diagnoses. This article claims that the popularity of suffering manhood on screen must be understood in the context of Norway’s cultural and political self-comprehension as generous and compassionate. Through an analysis of two films, Elling (Næss 2001) and Kunsten å tenke negativt /The art of negative thinking (Breien 2006), the article further demonstrates how compassion as a Norwegian ‘state emotion’ often consolidates established notions of manhood and Norwegian national identity.

Keywords: struggling men, Norwegian film, state emotionalism, compassion