Roy Andersson’s latest won’t turn heads, but it is a tender, and at times, world-weary look at the fallibility of human beings as they eke out a despairing existence.
Dir. Roy Andersson
2019 | Sweden | Drama/Comedy | 78 mins | 1.78:1 | Swedish
PG13 (passed clean) for some mature content
Cast: Bengt Bergius, Anja Broms, Marie Burman
Plot: Roy Andersson adds to his cinematic oeuvre with a reflection on human life in all its beauty and cruelty, its splendour and banality.
Awards: Won Silver Lion – Best Director (Venice)
International Sales: Coproduction Office
Subject Matter: Moderate – Existence
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex – Vignettes
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
Viewed: Oldham Theatre – Singapore International Festival of Arts 2020
A tad better than A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014), which I found disappointing, Roy Andersson’s latest won’t exactly turn the heads of his longtime fans, but its familiarity is a source of comfort in today’s uncertain world.
New viewers who aren’t acquainted with his work will probably marvel at his distinctive visual style—static camera, precise framing, extraordinary mise-en-scene, dreamlike settings of the real world (or at times, of an era long gone in a couple of WWII snapshots)—and the dour performances that hit the bullseye of banality.
Welcome also to the Nordic Miserabilist’s world of fallible, depressed human beings as he gives us one vignette after another, mostly disconnected and marked by a line or two of poetic narration (“I saw a man…” / “I saw a woman…”), sometimes even going further with dialogue that ultimately feels unnecessary.
Andersson seems to have lost his humour that characterised the likes of Songs from the Second Floor (2000), which I feel is his finest accomplishment, and You, the Living (2007), but his films are getting tenderer and tenderer. Perhaps his world—or our world—is getting wearier and wearier.
We especially recognise the fatalism of our mortality in About Endlessness; in fact, one might find that Andersson is more reflective a filmmaker now than he was, say, two decades ago.
There is an elegiac feel to About Endlessness, even though his absurdist style remains intact, albeit in a much more nuanced fashion as he uses operatic arias and period songs to evoke the mood of spaces where time does not matter anymore, but only the inevitability of a prolonged despair.