About Endlessness – movie review

About Endlessness is the sixth film from Swedish auteur Roy Andersson, and, according to some suggestions, possibly the last of his career. It is his first film since 2015’s A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence, (which I must admit, I loathed) and is pretty much in the same style as the rest of his oeuvre. Andersson’s highly stylised films are an acquired taste and do not hold broad appeal for mainstream audiences.

About Endlessness is a reflection on life with all its beauty and cruelty, irony and frailty, regrets, sadness and unhappiness. It deals with themes of religion, grief, war and loss. An anthology, the film consists of a number of vignettes about lonely people, miserable and unhappy people, often dealing with existential crises and unfulfilled hopes. In one vignette a priest loses faith in God and is having nightmares. The most ambitious sequence sees an army of defeated soldiers trudging through a windswept and snow-covered landscape on their way to a frozen prison camp.

Many of these short snapshots due not have a proper or satisfactory resolution, much like life itself which is often messy. Many of the vignettes are introduced by an anonymous and omniscient female narrator who uses the same phrases – “I saw a man..” or “I saw a woman..” There is a lot of repetition of dialogue throughout the film, phrases used over and over, and a deliberate repetition of imagery such as pouring drinks or watering flowers.

The film is full of Andersson’s signature touches – the deadpan delivery of dialogue, the minimalist style, the stillness within the deliberately posed and artificial tableaux, the droll touches of absurdist humour, and the way in which the characters are deliberately framed within the shot, with views of the city scape glimpsed through windows. Some of these tableaux provide visual references to paintings and famous artworks. A couple of characters recur in a number of different scenarios.

The grim, bleak and often melancholy mood is enhanced by the greyish colour palette of cinematographer Gergely Palos, who also shot Andersson’s previous film and employs a similar visual approach to the material here. The camera remains static throughout the scenes, never moving, and its unflinching gaze at the characters is meant to reveal deeper hidden insights and their quiet desperation.

Many will find About Endlessness something of a chore to sit through, but thankfully it only runs for a brief 75 minutes.

Greg King
For more of Greg King’s writing on film, check out his blog at filmreviews.net.au

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