It’s the same for everybody—once in a while there’s a highly acclaimed film that you think is mere rubbish. I think The Tree of Life is all style and no substance. I think Boyhood is no good and would not have got much attention if the film hadn’t been filmed over a course of 12 years. I think Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is weird, pointless, nonsensical for the sake of being strange and obscure. Etc. Etc.
After Songs from the Second Floor, I’ve just watched You, the Living, another film by Roy Andersson, 1 of today’s most acclaimed Swedish directors. I now know his style. Almost no camera movement—in Songs from the Second Floor, the 1st time is when the camera’s in a moving car that is stuck in traffic jam, and the 2nd time is when the camera tracks a man walking at a train station (did I miss anything?). Almost all shots are wide shots. In a scene, the camera stays in exactly 1 place*, showing the entire place and all the people in it, generally looking towards or at the camera—no camera movement, no other angle, no close-up, no shot of what a character is looking at. It feels like watching theatre. Then another scene, again with the camera staying in 1 place. Then another scene. Then another scene. Consistent throughout the film. In You, the Living, each time there’s a new scene, we see new characters. According to Wikipedia, the film is a succession of 50 short sketches.
It feels like the director imposed constraints on himself in order to have a style.
Frankly I think his films are interesting only in that he makes films unlike anyone else; the films in themselves are not interesting. Because of the consistent stationary camera and invariable camera angles, his films lack a kind of rhythm that would make them absorbing. Sometimes there’s too much repetitiveness, and Roy Andersson goes for a tragicomic undertone and likes to employ deadpan humour but sometimes a joke carries on for so long that it’s no longer amusing. The film gets tiresome after a while.
More importantly, there’s a lack of real drama. I see that he depicts a surreal world that reflects modern society’s problems. I see that he wants to make a point about life (the 2 films are part of the Living trilogy). There are a few funny moments, and a few moments that make you think, but generally most individual scenes are not compelling, and they don’t build to anything.
Shall I watch the last film in the Living trilogy? Probably not. I’ve seen enough.
*: An exception in You, the Living is the scene of the moving house, made up of 2 shots from opposite directions.
Note on the blog: You probably have noticed that my blog is now turning into a film blog. Looks like it’s a film blog now. For a while I’ve been planning a Life and Fate read-along for June, and have started reading it, but somehow couldn’t quite get into it, and these days I’m focusing on films, so I don’t know what’s happening but for now the read-along is delayed. My apologies.