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Songs from the Second Floor
98' 2000 Denmark - Sweden - Norway + + + +

Almost abstract and pure, Andersson draws a social study of modern times in a doom & gloom fashion, where guilt and humiliation weights on every step of our lives, deconstructing the unconscious process of despair, sadness and mental pain.



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 and confirmation.

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 made lots!)


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 filmed.
this precision and dedication to the work on set is admirable!
of course this method is very expensive (film processing, studio location, crew)!


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.



2000 - Roy Andersson - Sweden

Directing : Roy Andersson
Scenario : Roy Andersson
Photo : István Borbás, Jesper Klevenas, Robert Komarek
Editing : Roy Andersson
Music : ABBA's Benny Andersson

Cast :


Cannes 2000 Jury Prize (tie)

Content : + + +
Mise ene scene : + + + +
Playwright : + + +
Craft : + + + +
Inspiration : + + + +



Opening Sequence



2004 © SCREENVILLE * HarryTuttle