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  You, The Living There Must Be A Reason To Go On
Year: 2007
Director: Roy Andersson
Stars: Jessika Lundberg, Elisabeth Helander, Björn Englund, Lief Larsson, Olle Olson, Birgitta Persson, Kemal Sener, Håkan Angser, Rolf Engström, Gunnar Ivarsson, Eric Bäckman, Patrik Anders Edgren, Lennart Eriksson, Pär Fredriksson, Jessica Nilsson
Genre: Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: A man sleeps on a settee in his office, when suddenly he is awoken in fright - he tells us he has had a terrible shock because he was suffering a nightmare that the bombers were on their way. Next a woman sits on a bench in the park complaining loudly because she does not believe anyone understands her, not least her boyfriend who sits beside her, with her pet dog (who doesn't understand her either, so she says), and tries to reason with her. He doesn't get very far, with the woman ordering him away until, as he is about to depart the scene, he mentions that he has a roast in the oven. She says she'll be over later, then.

So begins the second of Swedish writer and director Roy Andersson's trilogy which began with Songs from the Second Floor, although you don't need to have seen that to appreciate this - there's no proper order to see his canon in. It's a deadpan, absurdist work that opens with a quote from Goethe which essentially sums up the theme of the short sketches, all of which were filmed in one take, that yes, you may find your life miserable, but be thankful that you can still enjoy yourself should you choose to do so, because there will come a day when that option will not be available to you.

This could have been deeply depressing, but the curious distance that Andersson adopts, not quite ironic, yet not exactly unsympathetic either, means that it can be surprisingly amusing. Not every segment hits the funny bone, but the unifying air of we're all in this together, each with our own troubles, means that you warm to these people. It must be said there's also a slight tone of looking down on the little folks under this microscope of life and entertaining yourself at their reactions, but if the director takes a stance of coldly godlike indulgence towards the characters, it could have been worse and he could have not cared at all.

That the upset woman we see at the start, and who turns up again throughout the film, ends her first appearance by breaking out into song suggests one of the things that make life living, and that is music. Another recurring aspect is a band who play New Orleans jazz, which might drive some others up the wall (or to destroy their ceiling in one case), but suggests that its begone dull care sound is a lot more beneficial than it is actively harmful. All through this we are shown in pitiless detail why life is terrible, why it's not worth persevering with, then something will happen to show in weirdly self-contrarian fashion that you're fooling yourself if you think there's nothing at all worth living for.

For example, some of the shortest sketches show the perils of finding a short queue to the heartbreak of being shunned by the one you love. However, there's always something ridiculous about these sequences, as if to say, well, you've got to laugh, haven't you? Even if it's just at other's misfortunes. We see two dreams, too, one where a man tries to remove a tablecloth from a long table without disturbing the crockery: he fails utterly and is sent to the electric chair (his lawyer cries throughout - there's a lot of crying in this film), and another where a fan of a rock star envisages herself being married to him in a house that moves around like a train. The fact that these dreams could easily fit into the rest of this without being announced as such gives you some measure of how surreal this can get, and also how there's an undercurrent of desperation here, pointing out, cheer up, it might never happ - oh, it has. Music by Benny Andersson of ABBA.

Aka: Du Levande.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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