You, the Living
- Tom Dawson
- 27 March 2008
In an unnamed Nordic city a moustachioed tuba-player starts talking about savings and pensions, while making love to his wife who is wearing a military helmet. A dog is dragged along a pavement, attached to the walker of its elderly owner. A barber takes revenge on a racist customer with the tools of his trade. The house of a newlywed couple is revealed to be part of a moving train. Just a few of the bizarre 50 or so vignettes that constitute Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson’s You, the Living, his first feature since 2000’s apocalyptic Songs from the Second Floor.
The director boldly dispenses with a traditional narrative. Shooting almost entirely in his own Stockholm studio, he instead presents the viewer with a series of precisely framed tableaux. He prefers to photograph in deep focus using wide-angle lenses and avoiding close-up shots, whilst the washed-out pastel colours, soft lighting and pale make-up of the cast lend a ghostly sensibility to the images. The boundaries between dreams and ‘reality’ are freely blurred, not least when a character describes his nightmare of screwing up a tablecloth trick at a dinner party.
Andersson has described You, the Living, whose title derives from a line from Goethe, as ‘a farce about the human condition’. It’s certainly a lugubriously comic film in the way it observes the faltering efforts of its subjects to cope with their everyday lives, yet there are fleeting moments of hopefulness in its otherwise absurdist vision. After all, in the words of the irascible bartender calling last orders, ‘tomorrow is another day.’
Cameo, Edinburgh from Fri 28 Mar. GFT, Glasgow from Fri 18 Apr.