To live and let live
by Annika Pham
- With his fourth feature film in nearly a decade, Roy Andersson offers a musical meditation on the human kind played with a lighter tone than in his previous work
This year’s Swedish entry at the Oscars nominations, You, the Living (Du levande) [+see also:
interview: Pernilla Sandström
interview: Roy Andersson
film profile] has been opening and closing international film festivals since its world premiere in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar last May, and some 30 distributors have acquired it from The Coproduction Office. The film is currently playing in Sweden, Norway and Finland and will soon open in France.
Several years in the making, each of Roy Andersson’s film creation is like a collectable item for those who cherish his absurd vision of contemporary life and unique work, meticulously crafted from start to finish in his own production house Studio 24 in Stockholm.
Like the 2000 award-winning Songs from the Second Floor, Andersson uses a series of "tableaux" (50 in total) shot in a single take and painted with his distinctive monochromatic colour scheme in the greys and greens. In what the director calls his "mosaic of human destinies", the tragicomic characters, look like Becket’s helpless souls, living in an absurd and unsympathetic world. They speak, often to the viewer, rarely with each other. Or if they do, they remain misunderstood, pitiful in all their vulnerability. "No one understands me", shouts a drunken woman, in a bar full of silent witnesses. A nursery teacher cries her eyes out in front of her pupils because her husband called her 'a hag'. A young girl shouts her love for a rock musician in a bare landscape.
But unlike Songs which had a political message and a general sense of gloom, You, the Living is lighter, playing louder on the burlesque with music and songs sprinkled about here and there. The first scene of an old man dragging a lifeless dog across the screen is one those oddball scenes, as well as the one of a man moaning about his financial difficulties while his wife, wearing nothing but his military helmet, is making love to him. Blurring reality with dreams, Andersson gives free reign to his imagination, relentlessly surprising the viewer, sometimes with highly poetic and brilliant sequences such as the one where the young girl in her bridal dress sits in her kitchen with her adored rock musician playing a solo. Suddenly the room starts to move, like a wagon on rails. It then stops in front of a crowd cheering at the newly weds and continues on its journey of happiness.
Andersson’s deep empathy is felt throughout. He wants the viewer to feel with him for the lot of human kind and to remember that "Man is man’s delight", like the saying of Iceland’s poetic Edda which inspired him.