Derik Badman's Journal

2021-05-09 10:08

Watched Roy Andersson's About Endlessness this morning, a most interesting movie unlike any film I can think of. At a fairly short 70 minutes, it offers a series of brief vignettes. I believe there is only one series amongst the vignettes featuring the same protagonist and a few accompanying characters. The rest are one/offs in variety of registers from comic to tragic. Many of them (but not all) are accompanied by a voiceover of a woman saying something like "I saw a man ... who was lost" or "I saw a woman... who had a problem with her shoe." All the vignettes are setup with no camera movement and no cuts on scenes that have a strong sense of artificiality to them despite their (mostly) realistic settings. I get the impression Andersson tightly controls the settings, perhaps they are all constructed solely for the filming... There is very little movement in them, even people seem to only move on command, or in reaction to some other movement. There is some amount of cgi at work, though it is quite hard to tell how much, the constructed nature of the scenes and a general lighting that seems... unnatural, often gray, makes any cgi blend fairly seamlessly into the whole.

The overall tone is dark, a certain despair predominates, perhaps because that one recurring character is a priest who has lost his faith (and is highly distressed about it). But there are also brief comic moments, and a few joyful ones. In one we see the outside of a small restaurant. A group of young men sit at a table, a few other folks nearby, music plays over an unseen radio. Three young woman ride up on bicycles, dismount, and then, starting with one who urges on the others, begin to dance to the song (which sounds like an old big band tune). They dance. The song ends. The others in the scene clap. Scene over.

One scene shows two lovers (we know that because of the voiceover) in each other's arms floating in the sky over a ruined city. This is the only place I noticed camera movement, as the camera very slowly moved along its high vantage. This is also the most artifical of the vignettes, the actors are clearly inserted over the city which is clearly some form of model. Yet, that artificiality, that difference, works, because the scene itself is fantastic (and unexplained). A few other scenes stray from the more modern setting of the majority, all (I think) referencing back to World War II. (I'm not sure what to make of this connection, but I also know nothing about Sweden's involvement in that war.)

I don't totally know what to make of the whole thing. I enjoyed it. I found it a bit mystifying. I found it formally and visually engaging. I wonder if i missed something in it. A clearly important one of the vignettes, shows a young man and young woman sitting across from each other in a room (she on the bed, he in a chair). He is reading a textbook. He looks up and explains the first law of thermodynamics to here. Energy changes but is not destroyed. It is endless. That nod to the title (assuming the translations here are purposefully matching up the word), seems to speak to some connection.