Roy Andersson (Sweden, 1943), already an acclaimed
director of television commercials,
debuted as a filmmaker with the romantic comedy
En Karlekshistoria/ A Swedish Love Story (1970).
After the more serious drama Giliap (1975), Andersson didn't direct films for 25 years, other than the short films
Something Happened (1987, but released only in 1993), a film of anti-US propaganda that adopted the conspiracy theory that HIV was made in US biolabs,
Harlig ar Jorden/ Lovely is the Earth/ World of Glory (1991).
Sanger fran andra Vaningen/ Songs from the Second Floor (2000), the first part of the "Living" trilogy,
is a surrealistic satirical narrative that alternates between comic and macabre overtones, mixing absurdist theater, Ingmar Bergman's existentialism, Woody Allen's humor and Luis Bunuel's irreverence, tragicomic fresco of moral decadence.
It is structured in 46 tableaux, each of which is visually arresting.
Together they compose a dense jungle of metaphors: the youngest generation is
blindfolded and sacrificed, nobody wants Jesus anymore (not only they don't believe but he is even a "loser"), the economists are clowns, doctors and priests have their own problems, crime pays more than honesty, and poetry is madness while living to 100 is ok (even if at 100 one shits in his bed).
And finally a crucifix belongs to a dump, not to a church.
A company owner, Lennart, is hidden inside a suntanning machine when he tells his Pelle, dressed in suit and tie, that it is time to shut down operations because
a new age is dawning.
The film shifts to Lasse, who is getting ready for an urgent meeting called by Pelle, while his scantily dressed wife demands his attention.
Next we see Lasse on his knees begging Pelle and repeating that he has worked there for 30 years.
Lasse clings to Pelle's feet who drags him for a while on the floor.
Lasse is one of the victims of Lennart's decision to shut down the business.
A foreigner walks into the building, looking for someone. Outside we see
men pushing an expensive sport car while others are lining up on the sidewalk.
The foreigner is attacked outside the building by passers-by who kick him even when he's already down on the sidewalk (a sign that people resent immigrants).
Back home Lasse sits devastated on the bed next to his naked wife.
In a night-club a magician is preparing to perform the "sawing-a-man-in-half" trick and asks for a volunteer among the audience. A middle-aged man accepts and
is placed inside the wooden box that the magician begins to saw, but the man
begins to complain of pain and eventually screams.
He is taken to the hospital where a doctor cures the wound on his chest caused by the saw.
Then we see him in bed with his wife, still in pain.
The magician too is sitting on his bed, puzzled.
The doctor and the nurse are now alone in their studio, and the nurse is sobbing
because they are going through a divorce while
a new patient is brought in and many others
are waiting outside.
An obese man is standing impassive in a subway car, his face dirty, covered in ashes. The other passengers don't even look at him.
A choir is singing in the back of the train.
In a cafe' a desperate woman is calling her husband because she has been stuck
for hours in a traffic jam. The man with the face covered in ashes walks in
mumbling that "it's not easy to be human". His son is sitting alone at a table.
The obese man, Kalle, shouts that he is ruined after his business just burned down.
He opens a plastic bag and pulls out charred pages: all that is left of his documents.
The woman asks if anyone knows how to get out of the traffic jam and gets back in her car.
Back home Kalle touches his wife's legs morbidly while she is lying in bed and tells her that his shop burned down, and confesses that he's the one who did it and is scared that he will be discovered.
A tramp rummaging through a garbage can starts a conversation with Kalle's son
and mentions that the traffic jam hasn't moved in 8 hours: everybody is driving
in the same direction while there is actually no traffic at all where they are
The son tells the tramp that he has been thrown out by his wife Susanne as rats cross the street.
The camera moves to Susanne's apartment and shows us that she's naked in bed making love to another man.
Then we see Kalle in his burned store chatting with insurance agents.
He laments that he has two sons and the oldest lost his mind writing poetry.
Outside the traffic jam continues and a procession of self-flagellating
business people walks by.
Kalle mentions that the economy is in crisis.
Kalle and his younger son Stefan visits the older son Tomas in the mental asylum.
Tomas doesn't speak and doesn't move, like catatonic, indifferent to what his father Kalle says.
Stefan gently tells Tomas that his wife Elisabeth is ok and his children too.
Kalle laments that Tomas abandoned his family to write poetry.
Stefan has taken the taxi business that Tomas gave up.
and then recites Cesar Vallejo's poem
"Stumble Between Two Stars".
Kalle loses his temper and has to be escorted out by the nurses.
Kalle walks into a church and, sobbing, talks to the priest about his tragedies, but the priest and the caretaker start whining about their own financial problems for which the priest blames the stock market.
At a bus station we see the magician and his wife with their four suitcases and a saw.
We see the man who was sawed at home.
Pelle, who always carries a golf club, has dinner at a restaurant with his male housemate.
The doctor and his nurse wife chat outside the clinic: she's still whining about their failed marriage.
As he is driving around in his taxi,
Kalle's younger son Stefan picks up a passenger who is a military officer going to the 100th birthday celebration of a former admiral
who now lives in a nursing home.
The passenger is running late but
the taxi moves slowly through the endless traffic jam
while the self-flagellants cross the street in the background.
We then see the former admiral, a frail and demented man, kept like a baby in a bed with rails which looks like a large crib,
while decorated officers, his former subordinates, walk in to pay their respects.
The old admiral, who is shitting on himself, gives them the Nazi salute.
Kalle's young son Stefan returns home to his unfaithful wife drunk and
recites Vallejo's poem.
Kalle visits a businessman called
Uffe who is launching a business of crucifixes, convinced that people will
return to Jesus now that the year 2000 is approaching.
He offers Kalle to sell crucifixes for him and Kalle walks one carrying a big one.
A man lies on the sidewalk of a train station next to the train: his
finger is stuck in the door.
Curious passersby stop and argue whether it was his fault or not while
he screams in pain.
Once the poor man is freed, Kalle walks on the same sidewalk carrying his crucifix and a suitcase and a briefcase, followed by an old acquaintance, Sven.
Kalle feels guilty towards Sven. Sven is dead: he shows Kalle
his bleeding wrists. He committed suicide. Kalle sees another ghost behind
a Jewish boy looking for his sister who was hanged by the Germans
during World War II
(and we see the flashback of both sister and brother being hanged).
We learn that
Kalle borrowed money from Sven before Sven committed suicide. Kalle confesses that he was relieved from he heard that Sven was dead because it relieved of his debt.
Kalle returns to to mental asylum to visit his son Tomas bringing with him granma, Stefan and Tomas' wife. A patient says that
Jesus was crucified because he was a nice guy.
Kalle mentions that the insurance company paid.
Kalle begs in vain Tomas to speak.
Kalle lectures Tomas that life is about business not poetry.
Kalle loses his temper again and has to be dragged out by the nurses again.
Then we see a meeting of some 20 old men and one woman around a giant table.
They are economists whose job is to advise the government.
They pass around a crystal ball.
After an eight-hour discussion, one of them concludes:
"all we can do is hope".
One of the men gets up and notices that the house across the street is moving,
a fact which causes every men in the room to run out in panic
except that they try to open the door from the wrong side (pulling instead
The lone woman at the meeting is the only person who doesn't panic and remains seated calm at her place.
Kalle's younger son Stefan helps his wife play flute.
Kalle takes the train back home, and is still haunted by the ghost of the Jewish boy.
Then we see workers busy laying boulders on a beach in front of a small crowd.
A dummy falls from the cliff onto the boulders and is taken away in an ambulance.
Then we see a little girl, Anna,
in a majestic room,
surrounded by learned man who boast of their experience.
Anna is pronounced perfectly healthy and lectured about life.
She is taken blindfolded and barefooted to the edge of the cliff.
Priests and notables line up in front of her.
Anna is pushed down the cliff and we realize that the previous scene was a rehearsal for her homicide.
The vast crowd intones a solemn hymn.
After the sacrifice, some of the spectators meet at a bar: an
old man vomits while a young woman next to him keeps falling and can't get up
and another man keeps asking "where are we?"
Several people enter the vast hall of an airport, slowly dragging heavy luggage on carts. The first ones are Pelle and his male partner Robert.
Stefan visits Tomas again and
comfort him saying that some people do care for peotry, and
recites again Vallejo's poem.
Tomas remains silent.
The film shifts to the dump where the salesman throws away his crucifixes, small and big ones. When Kalle arrives, the salesman tells him of being ashamed
that he believe he could
"make money out of a crucified loser", and regretting
that he hasn't kept up with the times.
The salesman leaves and Kalle disposes of his own crucifix while Sven and other ghosts walk towards him.
Kalle defends himself aloud and throws objects at the ghosts,
but many more rise from the ground, led by the blindfolded little girl
Du Levande/ You the Living (2007)
follows the same structure
(50 brief vignettes) but is even more disjointed and abstract, to the point of
becoming a pointless exercise in chaos. Some of the vignettes feel unfinished,
some lasts only a few seconds.
It is a painful experience, and without even the spectacular visual imagination
of the previous film.
A moustached man is sleeping on a couch. The noise of a train wakes him up.
He had a nightmare about bombers flying over his city.
An obese man and an obese woman argue on a bench.
She is crying because nobody understands her.
He swears that he likes her.
She sends him away.
She dreams of leaving town but doesn't even have a motorcycle.
He mentions that there's lamb roast in the oven and this convinces
her to go back home.
An old man slowly walks in front of the window of a restaurant dragging a dog by a leg.
The joyful motif of dixieland jazz of the soundtrack is played by a man on his
trombone which is driving his wife crazy. An annoyed neighbor beats the ceiling.
A mostly bald man stares outside his balcony while his wife laments that he never thinks of her.
The whining obese woman walks into a bar and starts drinking.
A girl enters the same bar with a girlfriend and talks to her boyfriend while
the obese woman is still whining that nobody understands her.
A man plays a big stand-up drum in his living room.
A female teacher walks into a classroom, sits at the desk and starts crying.
She tells the children that her husband insulted her.
A middle-aged couple shops for three meters of red fabric: the salesman
is the husband of the teacher.
People gets off a city tram in a fog.
In the middle of a traffic jam, the moustached man is driving a pickup truck and narrates his nightmare to the camera. The cars hardly move at all.
We see the nightmare of the moustached man destroying the vintage china set
on a table painted with Nazi swastikas and then being tried by a tribunal
and sentenced to the electric chair. We see him executed while his lawyer sobs uncontrollably.
A woman is assisting her elderly mother who is sitting in a wheelchair but
the mother doesn't speak.
A vast hall is full of restaurant tables at which customers sing a patriotic song. They even stand on their chairs to toast. In the middle of the singing
a professor is called to the telephone.
It's his son who wants money.
In an auditorium a trombonist, a banjo player and a trumpet player perform the dixieland motif during a thundering storm.
A young fan walks in looking for a rock singer and then goes to the restrooms to cry because she can't get hold of her musical idol Micke.
A group of people shelter under a bus stop during the storm.
Four tailors measure a man who needs a new suit.
A very weak man misses the elevator and walks up the stairs of a clinic: it turns out he is the doctor, a psychiatrist.
He declares to the camera that he is exhausted and can't stand his patients anymore.
A middle-aged man tries to give a
bouquet of flowers to the obese woman but she slams the door in his face and he
complains with the mailman that nobody understands him.
This brings back the obese woman: she is having dinner with her obese boyfriend
at her husband's mother. The obese woman insults the old woman because she is
not being served alcohol. As usual, the obese woman whines that life sucks.
In the evening the psychiatrist leaves his office.
A naked woman wearing a helmet is moaning as she has very slow sex with a man who simply discusses his financial problems.
An arrogant customer upsets the Arab barber who shaves the middle of his head
and walks away. The customer reports him to the police and then shaves his
head completely before attending an important meeting. During the meeting the CEO has a sudden stroke and dies.
A singer and a small band perform at the funeral.
A man stands in line at the sales window of a train station but people keep passing in front of him.
A woman keeps praying god kneeling with her face on a chair while the priest
wants to close the church.
The rock fan orders a drink in a pub and tells the camera her dream of marrying her idol Micke.
We see her dream: she is dressed in the bedroom while he plays the guitar in the living room, and their house moves into a train station where a crowd comes outside the window demanding to see the girl.
She comes to the window and the crowd starts singing for her.
A woman in a tub intones a romantic song while her husband stares outside the window.
A worker finishes washing the window of a shop and stares in the sky.
So do the people inside the shop.
The girl is in the countryside, still delirious about the rock singer.
She too stops to look up at the sky.
A man has cooked dinner and asks his wife to taste it. They both stare outside the window.
An old man is ironing a shirt. He too stops and stares outside the window.
The camera shows the sky from the wing of an airplane and slowly reveals
a formation of bombers in the sky (the nightmare of the first scene).
En Duva Satt pa en Gren Och Funderade pa Tillvaron/ A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014) is
less episodic and fragmented than its predecessor. At the same time it is not
as metaphorically rich as the first one. This time the
tableaux follow mostly two characters, two failed salesmen.
With its numerous detours, it appears to be a delirious potpourri of historical and philosophical meditations.
Several vignettes poke fun at human civilization (at "homo sapiens") while
others emphasize the fundamental impossibility of happiness for a species
that is mainly about entertainment and greed.
Like in the first chapter of the trilogy, the viewer senses what Andersson is
trying to convey although it's difficult to express in rational terms.
A man observes embalmed animals in a museum of natural history while a woman waits for him. Then they leave.
A man is trying to open a bottle of wine but the cork is stuck.
He tries so hard that he has a heart attack. His wife is in the kitchen and
The three middle-aged children of a dying woman (two men and their sister) meet at the hospital room. Their mom is unconscious but she holds her handbag to her chest because she wants it in heaven.
The eldest son is upset because the handbag contains jewelry, wedding rings and cash. The sons try to pull the handbag from her but she starts whining like a baby and clings to it.
A man dies on a ship after he already paid for food and drink. The captain of
the ship orders that the food and drink be given away for free.
A group of people are moving slowly and silently in a room.
A dance teacher shows them how to move and they imitate her moves.
Then they freeze. Then the action repeats.
Outside that room the janitor washing the floors has stopped working to chat on the phone.
In a barber shop a man states to the camera that he was a ship captain for 15 years but now he is replacing the hairdresser, his sister's husband, who is sick
He too is interrupted by a phone call. His only customer, Sam, walks out and moves
to a cafe'. A traveling salesman named Nathan walks in and joins him.
Nathan and Sam explain that they sell "novelty items" like
vampire teeth and laugh bags.
A military officer, Ove, stares at the window of a restaurant and then
makes a phone call to doublecheck the day and time of a lecture that has obviously been canceled.
Later, Nathan and Sam demonstrate their products in vain to a potential customer.
They claim that they want to amuse people but they are incredibly boring.
We see the cafe' again, where old people are drinking, and then we see it as
it was in 1943: a choir intones the Swedish version of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" ("Glory glory Halleluja") and a group of sailors walks in.
Back to the present, the waitresses help an aging and mostly deaf customer, Arne,
wear his coat on the way out.
In a small kitchen a woman is on the phone while the husband listens.
The two salesmen visit a shop that owes them money.
The owner hides in a room and shouts that he has no money.
A little girl, Wilma, walks on a school stage and recites a poem about a pigeon sitting on a branch reflecting that it had no money.
The two salesman walk into another cafe' to ask for the location of a shop,
another shop that owes them money.
They open their briefcase to demonstrate their products when two soldiers from the 18th century open the door to a horseman who kicks all the women out.
Then a whole regiment of the cavalry passes by and
King Karl XII rides into the cafe'.
The king doesn't talk directly to the bartenders but
his assistant orders sparkling water and demands that it be served by the young handsome bartender.
The soldiers are on their way to fight the Russians and they sing
"The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (which was actually composed in the 19th century).
A woman sitting on a bench plays with her baby in a stroller.
Two creditors (a man and a woman) visit the two salesmen
but they have no money. The two salesmen come up with excuses.
Ove, the military officer, walks into the same cafe' where Sam and Nathan are
having a drink, and tells how he showed up for a lecture but it was canceled.
In his humble apartment, Nathan is troubled by the idea that he will meet his parents again in heaven.
As the usual cafe' is closing the last patron feels guilty that he has been greedy all his life.
At the other cafe', the patrons see the king's soldiers walking back from the battlefield in a slow and bleak procession.
The king himself is lying tired on his horse and has to be helped to
a chair. He has lost half the kingdom.
The bartender informs the female patrons sitting at the counter that their husbands have been killed in battle.
A young man and a young woman lie on the beach. He slowly caresses her breasts.
The two salesmen men face each other at the train station and argue over their
failed business. Sam leaves Nathan.
The military officer is again in front of the restaurant where he expects a lecture to be held.
Sam apologizes to Nathan.
The last part, ironically titled "Homo Sapiens", begins with a female scientist
on the phone while she is performing a cruel electrical experiment on a monkey.
British soldiers surround a cylindrical building that looks like a giant musical instrument
and force black slaves to march inside, flogging those who resist.
Then one of the soldiers lights up the building and the building begins
to rotate vertically like a cooking machine. The slaves inside don't even scream or cannot be heard. Trumpets embedded in the cylinder emit a soothing melody.
The camera changes angle and shows the scene reflected on the sliding glass doors of a regular building. A servant opens the doors and a group of elderly notables walks outside staring at the scene that is playing in front of them.
Nathan and Sam are back together.
Nathan is depressed again, but this time because of a realistic dream, such a horrible dream that he doesn't want to tell Sam the details (is he referring to the film we just watched?).
A group of people are waiting for the bus. For several seconds nobody moves. Then a shop owner mentions that it's wednesday. One of the people waiting for the bus remarks that it feels like thursday and others confirm that it is indeed wednesday.
Om det Oandliga/ About Endlessness (2019)