You, the Living

Dir: Roy Andersson
Star: Elisabet Helander, Björn Englund, Jessika Lundberg, Olle Olson

Trash City
Top 10: 2010
Movie reviewing is, to some extent, a process of comparison, e.g. "If you enjoyed A, you'll love B", or "X is like a cut-rate version of Y" But occasionally, there are films where that aspect has to be thrown out the window, because you've not seen anything like this before. The best way to describe it, is perhaps as a dream captured on film, and the final shot suggests that may be what it is. It's ninety minutes of short scenes, many filmed in one shot and from one angle, depicting life in a strange, grey, bleak city. These sometimes feel almost like a painting, and will start or stop in the middle; some participants feature in one scene, then show up in the background of another, or they'll refer to something that happened elsewhere. Sometimes, characters will describe a dream, and that then becomes the next sequence. It's extremely loosely-structured, to say the least, and one can see why financing was hard to come by, even with (or perhaps, because of?) a cast of unknowns, mostly non-professionals. shooting took three years, and several times, production had to go on hold, while the team made adverts, whose proceeds then allowed shooting to restart.

I'm glad they persevered. While not everything works - some of the scenes are, in fact, pretty tedious - you never know what to expect. Hey, if you don't like this one, there'll be another one along in a minute. And when it works, it works beautifully, with a deadpan sense of dark humour that feels similar to Aki Kaurismäki. If you're like us, you'll find yourself laughing out loud at things that are almost insignificant. I think I went hysterical at one scene with a man practicing his big drum; nothing happens, except for a door being closed in the background. Er, it's a lot funnier than it sounds. The same goes for the film as a whole. It's basically impossible to describe, yet has a number of magical moments, such as a couple talking in their kitchen - at first, it seems perfectly normal, then you realize there's something very abnormal. It's a moment of cinematic genius that's brilliantly done, easily the equal of anything done by Gilliam.

[The DVD was released by Tartan Palisades on January 12th, with special features including a director's commentary, making-of documentary, a feature on Andersson trip to New York to promote the film and clips from his other work. For more information, please visit the Palisades Tartan website.]

[February 2010]

Swede surprise
See also... [Index] [Next] [Previous] [TC Home Page]