Roy Andersson's "About Endlessness"

By Moira Jean Sullivan

I have seen many Roy Andersson films through the years. His latest About Endlessness(2019) which won the best director award in Venice that year, is a good term to describe all of his previous films of the last years. Though they are different in themes, they are always the same, a still mise en scene - composition of the frame. There is no camera action but one long take and Andersson has been working this way since 2000. You are forced to concentrate on what is within the scene, and because of the stillness, the endlessness, you have the opportunity to focus on every detail. This is different from nearly all films, and there is probably only one filmmaker in the world that does this: Roy Andersson. He perfected this style by making commercials for years, which were usually one take scenes, and he took this style to feature film. The first one he made won the Palme d’Or in 2000 – Songs from the Second Floor.

The colors in his films are drab, the decor unexciting. People stand and stare and say very little while they observe but what they do say makes an impact.

In About Endlessness people line up to wait for an imminent occurrence on the street and as in most of his films there is usually some kind of Christian motive that involves sacrifice, flaggelation or the crucifixion. A woman's voice explains about the various people we see with short stories almost like parables in most of the scenes. Such as: A woman tries to revive a dying potted tree on the street by spraying it with water. A young man who hasn't found love watches her. A man goes to a doctor for nightmares but he finds no consolation from him because it is the worst he had ever heard, and he learns it is when the man has lost faith in God.

In this film, there is an aerial shot of a city with a couple that floats above in the kind of embrace often seen on the ceilings of Roman churches. People wait at train stations or sit in drab bars listening to Billie Holliday, drinking champagne. Music is an important part, not loud overwhelming music but especially chosen for the scenes. Young people are dancing while people just look on motionless, or there is a fight in a produce store by a man who is subdued by several men, claiming love for a woman that doesn't seem to care. A young man explains the Law of Thermodynamics to his girlfriend: that everything is energy and is never destroyed, but changes from one form to another. In fact, the young man says his girlfriend may transform into a potato or a tomato - and she wants to be a tomato.

This is actually how Andersson explains his films. Each series of images transforms into other new form. Nothing has to happen, there is no dramatic action or any of the conventions of traditional filmmaking. When not discussing god there are usually scenes about war or soldiers. Often it is about Hitler , a man the voice over explains, who knew he would fail , seen with the sounds of dropping bombs in a dingy apartment with paintings askew.

The scenes in About Endlessness are contemplative and often dryly humorous such as a man who won't accept anaesthetic and screams so much his dentist walks out on him. A beautiful final scene is of a man fixing his green car, on a deserted road lined by faded green fields with the sound of geese flying over. Simple, layered with the sound of a choir in the background. In Andersson's films there is a freedom to observe and contemplate without distractions, and how he sets the table in each scene is perfectly orchestrated.

© 2021 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 04/28/21
Movie Magazine International