You the Living
by Sawyer J. Lahr
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Roy Andersson directs a myriad of vignettes observing everyday life in Sweden. Official Selection at Cannes Film Festival, You the Living, plays like moving paintings featuring sublimely banal characters washed in a gray overcast skies and colorless interiors. Andersson portrays an overweight Swedish white trash woman who sits in a park and bursts into song about her depression. Another has a wife slam the door shut on her husband who incessantly plays the baritone that seems to be keeping the neighborhood awake.
The slices of life sometimes connect and pick-up where they left off in later scenes. The non-linear scenes present a simple premise and little conflicts that are as significant as they are insignificant. The story lines circle back at random, giving slightly more information about another scene without getting too wrapped up in its characters.
A few of the other scenes show how the fragility of the human condition can be comedic: an elderly man drags his dog tangled in its own leash. A grade school teacher breaks into tears in front of her class because her husband called her a “hag.”
The design of each scene is meticulous. A tableau or play-like stage is constructed for the actors to be arranged. Living’s alienating effect maintains distance between his audience and the ambling characters who impulsively mumble their thoughts or blurt them right out loud. As a single piece, the film becomes monotonous, but a few periodic musical numbers surely lightened the dead-air of some of the longer, more mundane scenes.
Sawyer J. Lahr is Chief Editor of the forthcoming online publication, Go Over the Rainbow. He also writes a monthly film column for Mindful Metropolis, a conscious living magazine in Chicago, IL.
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