To call it deadpan is barely to hint at Andersson’s style, which he mostly applies to the world of commercials (watch them on YouTube, they’re hilarious). But just when you think the only answer to Andersson’s view of the world – alcoholic couples; depressed psychiatrists; a girl searching for a disappeared rock star who shows her a modicum of affection – is to throw yourself under one of Stockholm’s trams, he unleashes a set-piece that has you marvelling at its choreography or wondering at the sheer ridiculousness of life.
Highlights include a man who recalls a dream he had the previous night that saw him sentenced to death for the most silly of crimes and a vast university dinner that Andersson sets up purely so an elderly professor can be called out to answer a phone-call. New Orleans jazz graces the soundtrack courtesy of the miserable characters that play the drums and the tuba; their celebratory tunes conflict wildly with their melancholy lives. Emotionally, the film’s saving grace is that the good guys – a lovelorn girl, a barber taking racist abuse from a customer – get their own back, and at least some of the bad guys – a braying businessman, the racist – get their come-uppance. You won’t know whether to laugh or cry.