A film poem, surrealist, existantialist, inspired
by the Peruvian Communist poet Caesar Vallejo "Beloved is he
who sits down", and Dostoievski's Notes from the Underground.
A story about our need for love, our confusion, greatness and smallness
and, most of all, our vulnerability. In a nameless unidentified
(scandinavian) city, many characters, among them a father and his
mistress, his youngest son and his girlfriend. It is a film about
big lies, abandonment and the eternal longing for companionship
The pictures involve insurrance fraud fire, street
offense, crucifixes traffic, haunting ghosts, cab-driving poet depression
in a mental hospital, self-flagellation parade, week-long traffic
jam, children trial and children sacrifice off a cliff, sing-along
opera by a group of subway fares, mass exodus at the airport...
Andersson is his own producer, he owns his camera
and a mini-studio with stages and all the necessary technology.
and he funds his feature film by shooting ads videos for TV (he
It took Andersson 4 years to complete the shooting.
46 scenes, plan-sequence, all but one with a static frame, wide
angle, large focus depth, on a set composed to the smallest detail.
The characters who show white painted faces, between clown and japanese
theatre, that impersonate a uniform human kind, struggle without
any apparent coherance to escape self-destruction of a mindless,
emotionless, bureaucrat society. Most of them are non-professionnal
actors selected for their bleak or odd look.
technicaly, the direction is very complex. Andersson spent months
to compose each sets individualy, shooting over and over those long
plan-sequence to reach perfection. sometimes he even shot again
the whole scene, rebuilding a new set, calling back all the cast,
because he changed his mind and needed to fix the wrong detail.
Andersson started by a few 30 filmed (35mm!) tests
to build the set, piece after piece, define the frame, ajust the
light, place the characters (80 people on screen!). there is a painted
wall in the back to complete a fake perspective. the footages are
proejected to the crew so they can correct the errors.
when Andersson feels the scene is "exact", after a few
filmed rehearsals, about 15 takes of the full plan-sequence are
this precision and dedication to the work on set is admirable!
of course this method is very expensive (film processing, studio
Clearly influenced by Luis Buñuel (The Discrete Charm
Of The Bourgeoise), Beckett, Kafka, this movie recalls the
universe of Gilliam's Brazil, Monty Pythons, Coen bros' The Hudsucker
Proxy, P.T.A's Magnolia,
if the result looks simple and pure, it's because all the up-stream
work has been seamlessly integrated. editing and camerawork were
an artistical choice. maybe u dont like how it looks, but i dont
think it was specificaly detrimental to this type of movie. on
the contrary, as far as he composed his film in successive (almost
independant) events, and claimed to create stand-alone pictures
within the film, like windows openning on a surrealist situation,
the minimalist motion is fully coherant.
i found this sometimes tiresome indeed. but i wont say that my
boredom was an evidence of the artwork failure... the topic is
tough, the viewer's commitment is not eased with bite-size digested
commentaries. the film requires more attention span than the average
film, i thought that Andersson's decision was partly motivated
by this idea.
it forces our eyes to explore the frame during the long silences,
and put us in the shoes of voyeur helpless witnesses! we are forced
to watch, like Alexander de Large in A Clockwork Orange.
remember the scenes from Irreversible (i.e. rape), or Haneke's
Funny Games (i.e. manslaughter scene)
the color chart, and photography shouldnt influence your opinion
on the characters and the storyline. i think the characters were
meant to be presented in a very distant, bleak, unattractive way.
the discontinuity of the lead role focus in each frame, prevent
us to "care" or project ourselves in one or the other
of the characters... i think the point of Andersson was to put
us in front of the TV of a possible world, and see what could
happen to us if our social behaviors were taken to an extreme.
so instead of the classic (hollywood) transfer on an identifiable
central character and his/her whereabouts, we are witnesses of
a symbolic world presented like an absurd fable.