Life is sad and ridiculous in the deeply original films of Roy Andersson. The Swedish director’s black comic movies are more collections of dry, offbeat, painterly vignettes than feature films in any traditional sense. This new one, scarce on laughs and brief, may be his last, says the 77-year-old. It’s smaller in scale than his last two, 2014’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence and 2007’s You, the Living. It also has a more maudlin air to it overall than those others – which, if you’ve experienced their bleak absurdity, you’ll know is saying something.
Great art brings perspective, and let’s face it: we could all do with some of that right now. There’s plenty of everyday pain and suffering to chew on here, as well as filmmaking craft to swoon over. We hear the voice of a woman recalling various people she’s met, and that’s the only clear connection between the scenes that unfold – each of them single-frame, static shots, drained of colour and featuring everyday-looking, extra-pale characters, as is Andersson’s signature style.
There’s a man crying on a bus because he doesn’t ‘know what he wants’. There’s another facing a firing squad (a nod to Goya, one of Andersson’s favourite painters). Elsewhere, a priest is going through a crisis: ‘What should I do now that I have lost my faith?’ he asks the doctor. ‘I’m sorry I have to catch a bus,’ is the reply. That’s Andersson’s worldview in a nutshell: we stare into the existential abyss daily and yet still life ticks over, beautiful in its banality and miraculous that it exists at all.
In US theaters Fri Apr 30.