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  Songs from the Second Floor Free Market Apocalypse
Year: 2000
Director: Roy Andersson
Stars: Lars Nordh, Stefan Larsson, Bengt C.W. Carlson, Torbjorn Fahlstrom, Sten Andersson, Rolando Nunez, Lucia Vucina, Per Jornelius, Peter Roth, Klas-Gosta Olsson, Nils-Ake Eriksson, Hanna Eriksson, Tommy Johansson, Sture Olsson, Fredrik Sjogren
Genre: Comedy, Drama, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Pelle (Torbjorn Fahlstrom) is a businessman who is consulting with his boss, who has arranged to speak to him while he lies inside a tanning bed at a health spa. Pelle is worried about the state of the company and tells his boss so, but the director has words of reassurance for him: don't concern yourself with it, since once we've made enough money out of it we can move on and leave the suckers in the lower positions to wither as the mistakes their superiors have made scupper their futures. If Pelle and the boss are fine, what is there really to worry about? Not the employee who has been with them for thirty years getting sacked, that's for sure...

Songs from the Second Floor was one of those rare Roy Andersson features, rare because he took so long to make them as he had to raise the budget for personal projects through his work as a director of commercials: this effort took four years to complete alone. Another reason was his incredibly exacting visual style which called for set design of great detail and ambition, so that took a lot of time to create as well, but for his fans it was always worth the wait, with many of them proclaiming the results readily as masterpieces. Certainly you could see the amount of labour which had gone into their craft, but how many of those fans could truly claim to understand what he was getting at?

What made them so compelling was that while it was all to easy to let the finer details go over your head, such was their concentration on Andersson's extremely precise concerns - this was, he said, based around the poetry of Cesar Vallejo - that they achieved a curious universality, because the issues the characters were wrapped up in could be applied to the lives of many of those watching. Not everyone was going to be haunted by the ghost of a business partner they had done wrong by, but there was at least one person in your life who you have treated badly and you feel some form of guilt over, and if you don't you probably feel closer to the briefly glimpsed, hearts of ice bosses who show no remorse for ruining lives.

Therefore no matter how deadpan, blankfaced (and whitefaced) the antics occurring on the screen were, there was usually something that you could relate to, and if there was a chance you could laugh at something in there, then congratulations, you were a human being with some perspective or other on the world. Then again, the same was true if something here gave you chills, as there was plenty which either spoke to the dread of failing utterly in life and seeing it all fall away from you, with a recurring motif the businessman Kalle (Lars Nordh) just making a terrible mess of his finances and personal affairs in sequence after sequence, or simply was so alarming and out there that the response was unsettling, such as the huge religious ceremony designed to push a blindfolded little girl off a cliff.

Andersson had pointed out the way he felt society going, basically towards the collapse of the money networks, was as much part of the film as his religious imagery or his jokes, which had some observing he had predicted the global banking crisis starting in 2008, though if anything this highlighted the fact that event was not an isolated incident, and these things seemed go in a far more severe cycle than many at the time were comfortable with admitting. Of course, you could watch Songs from the Second Floor and not see anything but weirdnesses piling up on each other until a final, cathartic realisation on the part of Kalle of just what he had been capable of, and that was fair enough, this was so intricate that was a reasonable response. Just appreciate it scene by scene and not try to fathom exactly what the hell was going on and you might get as much out of Andersson's work as you would if you tracked down every reference. While it was often more surreal than amusing, it was the sort of film to hang around in the subconscious. ABBA's Benny Andersson did the (fleeting) music.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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