Songs from the Second Floor

February 23-March 8
Often referred to in specialised film circles as the unknown genius of cinema, Swedish director Roy Andersson is a true maverick. His Songs from the Second Floor was the most original work to compete at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize. This is only the third feature Andersson has made in a career spanning thirty years, a fact that’s explained by his unique working methods. Filming without conventional scripts in his own purpose-built studio, Andersson works and reworks individual scenes or vignettes until he is happy with every detail. His approach is similar to that of a painter, and indeed much of his inspiration comes from the fine arts rather than the cinema.
Songs from the Second Floor, which took four years and $5.5 million to complete, consists of 46 episodes, all of which take place over a period of months in an anonymous city somewhere in the northern hemisphere as the new millennium approaches. The film centres on Kalle (Lars Nordh), a sixty-year-old furniture salesman, his mistress and his two sons. In what amounts to a pastiche of modern urban life, the city has been brought to a virtual halt by a traffic jam, citizens are taking their anger out on the streets, and society as a whole seems on the verge of collapse.
On one level, Songs is an absurdist take on the conformity of human behaviour. Andersson’s very impressive use of large and beautifully detailed studio sets is reminiscent of Jacques Tati’s extraordinary designs for Playtime, and there’s a similar sense of humanity being oppressed by its own creations.
I believe that the way of life in western society inhibits human beings from realising their potential, Andersson has said.

Sweden/Norway /Denmark /France, 2000.
English subtitles
Dolby stereo SR.
100 mins.
We are all swimming in this soup of absurd values and heritage we were brought up with. But perhaps we should start to accept that we have ourselves created these circumstances which render us helpless.

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