Roy Andersson shocked the 2014 Venice Film Festival when his A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence was awarded the coveted Golden Lion by the jury headed by Alexandre Desplat. It was a a peculiar choice, even for a film festival, especially for a film festival of this magnitude. Mr. Andersson was invited to Venice again this year with his new film, About Endlessness. And he returned with a boom.
Movie buffs are familiar with the Swedish director’s most recent style. Static shots, vivid colors, little to no action or dialog. So why is his cinema to interesting, so enthralling? We’re talking about a series of tableaux vivants, after all; live paintings, living portrayals of small moments of life. But isn’t life about those little moments? Think about memories. We don’t usually remember in detail actions that span over extended periods of time. All we have are snapshots, glimpses stuck in our mind, that for some reason linger into eternity and make us who we are. About Endlessness is about those moments.
As usual, Mr. Andersson’s movies don’t have characters per se. His are archetypes, universal figures that represent the human experience. And it’s a constant, endless battle, that experience. Parents laying flowers near the grave of their lost son, a man trying to repair his car, soldiers walking to their prison camp, a man trying to speak to a childhood friend, but also young girls happily dancing to music, a man in awe of a snowfall claiming “It’s all fantastic”, a couple gazing at the blue sky. Little, sometimes powerful moments in life, but those are the moments that shape us, that define us.
“Vulnerability is a gift”, said Mr. Andersson at the press conference. That is probably the manifesto of his cinema. His characters are pervaded by an unspeakable fragility, drowning, almost submerged by doubts, crises, like a priest who’s beginning to question his faith. Compassion helps us understand them, side with them, laugh with them, helped by Andersson’s exhilarating dark humor.
About Endlessness is a rather curious title for a movie that runs for just 76 minutes. It moves slowly, like a spider’s web. It’s an ecstasis of stasis, if that makes sense. Thom Yorke, Radiohead’s vocalist and frontman, sings in one of the band’s best songs: “Hey man, slow down”. “Savour life” is what he means. Take in as much life as you can get. Absorb its beauty and its horror. About Endlessness is theater, cinema, painting, poetry, music. It is a film about hope and despair, about love and death. It is a masterpiece of an artist watching humanity from above with a caring look, like two lovers in the sky gazing at the ruins of civilization.
This review is from the Venice International Film Festival. About Endlessness has no U.S. distributor at this time.