You, the Living ****
Directed by Roy Andersson
While I watched "You, the Living," a dark and dreary, and yet often hilarious new Swedish comedy by director Roy Andersson , my mind and feelings towards it seemed to changed constantly. At first, I was sure that it was just an observatory film, telling us about the absurdities and craziness of everyday life. Andersson always seems to just keep the camera in one constant area, simply allowing the actors to do their jobs and stay in character for long stretches of time. And for ninety five minutes, he lets us see several little vignettes-some of them running for one minute and some of them running for ten-with interconnected character-many of them nameless-over the course of several days in an unnamed Sweden town.
These vignettes range in humor-many of it is very dry and not obvious at all. You really have to look for the comedy in them, and during a few of them several people in the theatre laughed while I scratched my head. In turn, several times I was cracking up while everybody else was scratching their heads. The comedic range is so strong that there was never a time where everyone was in sinc, which means that everybody is going to get something out if it. Perhaps the funniest is a dream sequence where a man is at a dinner party-he notes that everybody at the party was dreary and the party needed some serious action, very much like the entire ensemble in the film-and he decides to provide the action by doing the table cloth trick on a table filled with two hundred year old china. Of course he breaks it all, and soon he is on trial and then on the electric chair.
The subtle humor is actually much more realistic than you would think. Image walking down the street and seeing some of the most insane things going on. Simple things-a man is running in the rain and wants to take the bus for the protection of the bus stop covering. But its too full, so he continues to run in the rain. Now Andersson ends up making a movie out of little things like this, making us the observer of a town that consists of only moments like this. And some of them are so ingenious because its the truth. These moments like these, and these crazy little events that happen to us make up human. They make us alive. Hence the title.
And then at the very end of the film-or for the last ten minutes or so-my feelings towards it changed, and I think I figured out what Anderssonwas trying to say with his work. He's made a political satire out of it, and I completely disregarded the very first scene. A man is lying down in bed and he wakes up out of nightmare-dreams are a common motif in Andersson's story. He says that he dreamed that bombers were coming. Is this a cautionary tale about people that are so afraid of death that they have become the most dull and banal people imaginary? Are they admitting that the end is so close that they should just quit their lives now and life the rest of it depressed and angry? Even the terrific cinematography-nearly every shot is filled with a dull color, and grainy film. Not every character feels that way, and they seem to find some kind of peace in their lives. And they are all in the same boat. We all are. And we all need that peace even in times of great danger. Because otherwise we aren't living anymore.