Every so often, you watch a film so strikingly different from anything else you have seen recently it can be quite a challenge to decipher your own reaction to it. YOU, THE LIVING, the most recent feature-length work by Roy Andersson, is one such film.
A multitude of individuals all loosely connected in some fashion, jumping between scenes in their lives – some tragic, many incredibly comedic – are the subject of YOU, THE LIVING. Incredibly funny in places, the tone of the humour varies across the film, from the simple humour of a man in a zimmer frame dragging his dog along behind him to the more absurdist. Chief among them a builder’s dream where he is sentenced to death, by judges drinking steins of beer, for destroying valuable antique china in a predictably ill-fated attempt at the old trick of pulling the table-cloth from under a huge dining table. Despite the differing lives portrayed, all are part of the distinctly framed world that they inhabit.
‘Framed’ is really the right word here. Andersson’s camera is static, shots are immaculately set and none of the individuals receive close ups or anything more intimate than the medium range shots which comprise most of the film. The indescribably drab sets almost bathe in a greenish-blue hue, as if reflecting the misery and zombie-like appearance of those under its harsh glow.
The straight-faced, deadpan humour of YOU, THE LIVING is really quite distinctive. An excellent film definitely not mistaken for any other.