Roy Andersson and his View of the World

Roy Andersson at  The Nordic Council Film Prize awards in 2008
Roy Andersson at The Nordic Council Film Prize awards in 2008 | Source

Roy Andersson is a not so famous Swedish director known in his country for several TV productions and numerous commercials. However, his input in the world of independent cinema can not be unnoticed thanks to several major feature film productions that he completed in the past decade. His films are meant to touch important aspects of our everyday lives and bring up questions of the adequacy of our current way of life.

World of Glory (1991)

It was on a film directing lecture in a film school that I first saw Roy Andersson's Härlig är jorden (World of Glory). This was a striking experience and a good example of wise directing with limited budget. In this short fifteen minutes long festival work the director very skilfully showed the world through a painfully sarcastic and minimalistic point of view and defined the style for his future full length films.

In World of Glory, a real estate agent is telling us about his miserable everyday life, standing in front of the still camera with a face devoid of any emotional expression. He and his relatives, just like all other characters, are showing us the darkest sides of ordinary existence in a grey and dull world: they do not talk about anything except work or basic family issues, do not move and their pale faces do not show any signs of life upon them. It is enough to watch this short masterpiece once in order to come to conclusion that the title of the film is actually full of sarcasm and scorn towards the world we are living in.

It is actually only the film crew that has some sort of personality in this movie. The directing is a very solid achievement here with Roy Andersson's personal signature visible in every shot, where he sort of employs the theory of actors being like marionettes in the hands of director. Here, in World of Glory, Roy Andersson's directing is as minimalistic as possible, on the opposite to the theater, giving the actors assignment to stay still throughout the take, but at the same time this is what defines the unique directing style, where director is the most powerful figure on the set.

Speaking about cinematography, it is the second powerful tool that gives the film its unique form: every shot is minimalistic, but at the same time it is so well prepared and balanced that the whole film looks like a set of paintings containing a common meaning.

Songs from the Second Floor (2000)

Songs from the Second Floor is Roy Andersson's first full feature film since seventies. Stylistically it incorporates many features of World of Glory, but on a much bigger scale. It is not just a film, it is a symphony of our existence with a great deal of humor and sarcasm concerning many aspects of life, like family and social values. But it is not a mind soothing unrealistic drama about an unhappy family: it is a face of many social levels of Northern Europe. I would call the scenes of the film a "deliberately ridiculous reality," where at some point we lose track of who is normal and who is insane. We see walking dead in some scenes of the film, but they look and behave so similar to those who are alive, that we somehow fail to see the difference.

You, the Living (2007)

You, the Living (Swedish title being Du, Levande) is a continuation of the visual style Roy Andersson took since the aforementioned short film. Story wise it very much resembles the previous film, but it is not an irony, it is more like a comparison of different layers of society, a playful depiction of life and death, where one turns easily into another, and all is shown in a humorous way. Roy Andersson's camera laughs at everybody: ugly rockers in the park, an unfortunate lover, an old psychiatrist tired of his work, a business man, at judges in the court room etc. The only people to whom we must feel empathy is a young couple that gets married in the end of the film. I believe this scene was the last chance for the director to show that there might be hope for future in the face of young generation that is full of great expectations and has not yet been destroyed by the decaying society. You, the living, are you actually living the life you once wanted to live?

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014)

In 2014 Roy Andersson completed what is believed to be the third film of the existential trilogy, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence.

Conclusion

Coming from Europe, where it has never been easy to produce films, Roy Andersson nevertheless managed to build reputation of a director who understands life and has an interesting story to tell. Definitely not for everybody, his works will deliver food for thought to those who think.

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