Being a Human Person (4 stars)

Being a Human Person

Insightful and frank documentary following the shoot of what could be Roy Andersson's last film

Some filmmakers have such an unmistakable style you can identify their work from a single frame. That's certainly something that can be said of Sweden's Roy Andersson, perhaps best known for You, the Living and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. Andersson's sad, strange and funny films speak volumes about the tragedy and absurdity of the human condition. In this biographical documentary from director Fred Scott, the 75-year-old shares his creative philosophy, while we watch the shoot of his latest, About Endlessness (a film he moots as his last), run into difficulties.

We learn that Andersson's world is very small; he lives in a townhouse in central Stockholm which also houses his studio, while his favourite pizza place is across the road. His unique method of working involves the construction of large, often ingeniously realised tableaus, which, on average, take one month to build, shoot and destroy. Trick-of-the-eye techniques add movement and depth, cleverly transforming this interior into a wide variety of locations.

The admiration that this genial-seeming auteur attracts is touching and his love for people-watching and street-casting appeals too. But a rather more fraught situation emerges; as Andersson turns increasingly to drink, his self-doubt grows and the production falls behind. His failings as a father are described by his adult daughter, and his need to sign off on every detail, alongside the personal issues that make his films so interesting, cause major headaches for his crew.

It's a fascinating, often brutally honest insight into the artistic process of one of modern filmmaking's greats. Andersson speaks eloquently and interestingly about why he is driven to create art, how he believes it is about 'defending the human being' and capturing 'the vulnerability in life'. On the other hand, anxious colleagues – including his producers Johan Carlsson and Pernilla Sandström – offer their considered and affectionate but sometimes frank and exasperated takes on working with a genius. The quality of such contributions makes this as much about the pressures of film production as the man himself.

Available to watch in selected cinemas from Fri 16 Oct.

Being a Human Person

  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • UK
  • 1h 30min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Fred Scott
  • Cast: Roy Andersson

Documentary about idiosyncratic Swedish auteur Roy Andersson as he embarks on his purportedly final film.