277) You, The Living (2007) Dir: Roy Andersson Date Released: July 2009 Date Seen: September 3, 2009 Rating: 4/5
It's indeed a strange day in purgatory when the streak of didactic humanism present throughout Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson's work overwhelms the surreal humorist's unique painterly images. Andersson's strength as a visual artist comes from his ability to abstract the absurdity and horror of human misery into mute, evocative vignettes. The loosely connected scenes that comprise You, the Living however are overshadowed by a bleak worldview that would make Bukowski blanche. Andersson prepares us for this with a Goethe quote prominently featured at the beginning of You, The Living that surmises the film's premise, namely that we can't allow ourselves to be happy, a point that each successive scene of suffering hammers into our head with the force of a sledgehammer.
Andersson's images are hard to ignore and are memorable slivers of our collective unconscious--the execution scene, especially--even if it does look like stuff he's tackled before. Here however, unlike any of the other Anderrson, I get the feeling that I'm being scolded. These representations are meant to be a mirror to show why we it to ourselves, we do, even when there's no one else.* And the more I think about it, the more I realize I can accept being shamed by Andersson. Whether or not I like it seems irrelevant.
Even without the Goethe quote, it would be impossible to not be more than a little depressed considering the relentless stream of missed opportunities, bad luck and self-inflicted torture the film bombards his characters--and by proxy the viewer--with. The dreamy wedding sequence near the end is not surprisingly the film's most memorable scene because it's the longest of the two or three moments where Andersson allows we, the audience, to breathe a bit before he gets back to strangling us again. Its the turn in the film where you realize that Anderrson does have enough to compassion to allow these drab, little marionettes the opportunity to dream a little, though the specter of death will hover over them in perpetuity at the very end.
In other words: it's rich, affecting and more scarring than anything else I've seen by Andersson.
*Forgive the facile allusion. I'm in a good mood. For the moment.