You, the Living (15)

Imagine The Fast Show as directed by Ingmar Bergman, and you have a partial grasp on the whimsical world of Swedish film-maker Roy Andersson. His camera testifies to the fascination of watching people slowly fall apart. Some of these 50 or so vignettes are no more than snapshots of life's mundanity, while others deal in little dramas of confusion, dismay and alarming weather changes.

Hopper-like scenes of isolation contrast with jaunty bursts of Dixieland jazz. A schoolteacher abandons the classroom in distress: "My husband called me a hag," she cries. "What's that?" asks a pupil. "You'll have to ask him," she replies. In another, a man has a dream in which he messes up the tablecloth trick and accidentally destroys a family's valuable dinner service; next thing he's being conducted to the electric chair. "It was over 200 years old," says its aggrieved owner.

The non-narrative mosaic and the sometimes enigmatic nature of the skits take some getting used to, while the bland, Ikea-style conformity of the decor may begin to creep you out. Yet Andersson's impassive, off-the-wall reflections on the human condition do feel unique, and the comedy, even at its bleakest, is oddly mesmerising.

Comments