Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You, the Living ***1/2

Director: Roy Andersson
Cast: Jessika Lundberg, Elisabeth Helander, Kemal Sener
Eric Bäckman, Jessica Nilsson, Leif Larsson

Set somewhere between comedy and tragedy, Roy Andersson's "You, the Living" is the second film, of a planned trilogy, where the director explores human emotions through a set of vignettes.
There's not much of a plot to follow; the film is made out of fifty individual scenes (mostly shot in one take) where different characters complain about their lives.
An angry barber shaves an arrogant costumer, an elderly man laments how his bank treated him while a large woman rides him and an alcoholic woman cries while she asks her mother why is she serving non-alcoholic beer.
All of them are fascinating to watch as they contain entire lifetimes and reflect them in a few seconds. Andersson doesn't need to come up with extended dialogues for them to convey what they are going through.
We can see it in their eyes, in their posture, even in their surroundings.
The movie makes us wonder where does it take place, not only because of its claustrophobic-but-fablesque sets (most of it is done inside a studio) but of the actual population Andersson thinks is going through things like these.
Nobody in the movie is happy and yet we find ourselves laughing at their misery. This can work in two ways, as the director makes us forget our own troubles while he entertain us or by making us realize how selfish most of our problems are.
How can we go on and complain, like the people in the movie, when there's a million people complaining at the same time?
The film's greatest scene has a young woman (Lundberg) at a bar upset because she failed to make an impression with the rock musician she has a crush on (Bäckman).
She pauses and then tells us how she dreamed they were married.
Unlike the other characters in the movie who tell us their dreams, the girl's isn't filled with bizarre trials, apocalyptic crescendos and electric chair deaths, but with music, romance and hope.
This scene with its light Buñuel oneirism makes for such a hauntingly beautiful impression that the Dr. Strangelove-ish finale won't be what leaves the theater with you.

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