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‘I saw a man who had lost his way,” says the narrator of Roy Andersson’s droll, divine comedy. She is referring to the lanky, bemused fellow who has just ascended the stairs of the basement cafe. She could, by rights, be talking about anyone: About Endlessness arrives brimful with lost souls and lonely hearts, all framed in a series of static vignettes, all making vague efforts to connect with their neighbours. “It’s September already,” a woman remarks to her husband. “Hmph,” he replies, gazing out at the city from a park bench on the hill.
The Swedish director won Venice’s 2014 Golden Lion award for his beguiling A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. If About Endlessness risks feeling like that movie’s B-side, it’s still delicious, odd and utterly unlike anything else in competition; a film that makes the humdrum seem unique and the banal otherworldly. Andersson likes to frame his subjects in medium shot, posing them in drab offices, cafes or train stations, observing them for a few minutes before moving on. These people might be exhibits in some tatty museum of human curiosities. If so, it would be the sort of establishment where the labels on the cases have long since peeled off and the postcards in the gift shop have gone yellow at the edges.
“I saw a man who was begging for his life,” says the narrator, and again, this could be any one of them. The distracted old waiter pouring red wine on the table; the man lashing out at his wife in the market; the commuter sobbing on the bus because he “doesn’t know what he wants”. About Endlessness contains moments of devilish wit, but at heart it is a sad, sweet picture, threaded with themes of estrangement and separation. Andersson isn’t exactly asking us to laugh at or pity these people. Instead, we’re being encouraged to wonder at their predicament – and perhaps relate it to our own.
Somewhere in the city a priest is suffering a crisis of faith. He sits at the doctor’s surgery, desolate and despairing, like Pagliacci the clown. “Maybe be content with being alive,” the doctor suggests. This seems to be good advice. There are dancers on the street and a child who needs walking through the rain to attend a classmate’s birthday party – and these are the things the people need to focus on while they can. It’s September already. It’s later than they think.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: About Endlessness review – a divine comedy with moments of devilish wit | Film