About Endlessness Review
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence was supposed to be Roy Andersson’s final release but six years on and the 77-year-old returns seemingly reinvigorated after the praise received for his 2014 film. If you have seen the recently released documentary Being a Human Person, which follows the making of About Endlessness, you’ll know the journey to release it was seemingly long and hard, and it finds him in a far more muted and reflective mood than in any of his ‘Living Trilogy’ titles.
The long gaps in-between each of his films are due to the many weeks it takes to construct, shoot and take down each of sets used for his painterly vignettes. Nothing has changed in that respect, with the meticulously designed sets, drained colours and fixed camera positions instantly transporting you into Andersson’s peculiar world. Yet compared to previous releases the humour has been stripped back to match the minimalist aesthetic. Andersson is still just as fascinated by the small eccentricities of life and the absurdity of existence, although as his career comes to a close and Father Time taps his watch things are a little more straight faced.
About Endlessness also comes with narration from an unnamed and unseen woman (Jessica Louthander) who opens almost every scene with “I saw a man/woman…” Her sombre tone sets the mood to lay up each of the 35-odd tableaux scenes, most of which take place within the same town and community. The lost faith of a crestfallen priest creates the most basic of foundations for the narrative, a character we return to on a number of occasions. After watching the documentary it could easily be said the priest is Andersson himself, running on fumes and retreating into the bottom of his communion wine.
What continues to amaze about Andersson’s style is how instantaneous it feels. The precise composition of each section immediately identifies the characters, their emotions and surroundings, the minimal dialogue leaving ample room to project your thoughts into the empty spaces. Much of what we see is an interpretation of the people watching Andersson enjoys in the real world looking down from his office window or sipping on a glass of wine at a local restaurant. It’s his interpretation of the lives of unknown passers-by, fleeting moments that can be as meaningful as they are absurd, yet are always fully realised.
“Isn’t it fantastic?” asks a man in a quiet bar as everyone gazes out of a snow-filled window. “What?” replies a stranger. “Everything,” the man says. “Everything.” It’s these sort of scenes you’ll only find in a Roy Andersson film, a short, sharp reminder that, actually yes, if you can afford to lift up the heavy cloak of reality, everything is pretty fantastic. The fact any of us exist is cause for celebration alone. Elsewhere, moments of unspoken love are seen in a young man observing a woman watering a flower, while an unexpected dance by a group of girls outside of a café makes for a joyous few minutes.
As he has done previously, Andersson also delves into the darker side of humanity, such as watching a long line of defeated German soldiers being marched towards a prisoner of war camp in heavy snow, or seeing Hitler facing up to his final reckoning in his bunker. Another scene arrives in the aftermath of an honour killing with a sobbing father cradling his daughter still holding the murder weapon as the mother looks on hopelessly. These scenes are not intended to raise a smile but even those do feel like the bleakest Gary Larson cartoon ever drawn. In the hands of almost anyone else it wouldn’t make any sense at all, but Andersson allows us to see through the madness – on and off-screen.
About Endlessness is available on Curzon Home Cinema from November 6.