About Endlessness Review

About Endlessness
An anthology of vignettes detailing the gamut of everyday emotions, both big and small. Weakness, compassion, despair and hope — all human life is here.

by Nick de Semlyen |
Published on
Release Date:

06 Nov 2020

Original Title:

About Endlessness

Six years after Roy Andersson's Golden Lion-winning A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence (presumably Andersson has been busy reflecting on existence himself, though probably not on a branch), along comes his next paean to the glorious strangeness of human beings. If you've seen an Andersson joint before, you'll know roughly what to expect. If not, brace yourself for a series of tableaux which flit around in time and place (one of them features a Swedish dentist; another, Hitler), telling tiny little stories, the camera unmoving, and zero cuts as each scene plays out. In its blend of mordant wit and philosophy, it's a little like a cinematic version of Gary Larson's The Far Side comic strip, with fewer talking cows.

There's magic here in just how much it seems that Andersson has captured small moments of human drama.

Each vignette is minutely orchestrated; as ever, Andersson built the sets in meticulous detail in his Stockholm studio, though it looks like he's just wheeled his camera into real Swedish churches and apartments. But there's magic here in just how much it seems that he has captured small moments of human drama flaring into life. Some of the scenes are deliberately mundane: a woman on a bench, staring into the distance, tells her male companion, "It's September already"; a father stoops to tie his daughter's shoelace. Others have a heightened, epic feel, such as a couple ethereally floating in the sky above a ruined city, or a captured army being marched to their fate.

There's a little less comedy here than in Andersson's previous films — melancholy pervades — but you feel the filmmaker, now 77 and surely contemplating the fact that his career won't be endless, moving his absurd characters through their motions with sympathy and warmth.

Lord knows how it all connects, but there's a strange power in how About Endlessness flows, jumping around the whole spectrum of human experience and the ridiculous places to which our emotions push us. Andersson's pigeon is at flight once more, and cinema is a richer place for it.
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