I saw this photo for the first time in Venice in 2019, and here is what I brought back for this site.
It’s kind of nice of Swedish director Roy Andersson to present a film called “About Endlessness” in less than eighty minutes. A lot of directors could really abuse the latitude that this title implies.
The infinity that Andersson shows here is rather light (the film opens with a shot of a couple floating above a formation of gray clouds) and linked to the idea of an eternal return. “There was a man who made X,” “There was a woman who was X,” announces the narrator, and the screen shows a single, perfectly composed shot, the camera never moving, in which an invariable pale character plays the described action or an ironic variation of it. The overall effect is a cross between a biting New York cartoon and a painting from a Karel Zeman movie. Andersson is expected to approach Brian Cox to appear in one of his films; he is exactly the physical type for them. If ever a film could be called profound recklessness, “About Endlessness” is it.
On the second viewing, it was the recklessness that blocked me from time to time. In one of Andersson’s impeccably composed tableaux vivants – which manage to seem somehow unfussy, though they were clearly almost obsessive until the last frame – a man with no legs is in the hallway of a metro station, playing the mandolin. The narrator notes that the man had lost his legs to a landmine, and goes on to note that “it made him very sad”. We hesitate to invoke a vulgar phrase ending in the word “Sherlock”, but this is the kind of example that emphasizes the sometimes too porous border between sec and glib.
Nonetheless, one feels overall grateful for Andersson’s vision and visions. We can bask on the pastel shades of its frames, which start from a gray base and skillfully place pieces of cream and blue in strategic parts of the shot. He really likes to show alleys or curved roads. In one of them, a figure of Christ undergoes a station of the cross in modern attire while characters from other vignettes in the film cry out for him to be crucified. It’s part of a narrative thread in which a priest loses his faith and torments himself – and his therapist. In another bend, three cheerful young women walk past a cafe and spontaneously start dancing to a Delta Rhythm Boys song that comes from the sound system of this establishment. The film’s “infinity” encompasses a lot of absurdity and disappointment, but its notes of grace are the strongest.
Now playing in theaters and available on request.