About Endlessness

About Endlessness

2021, NR, 78 min. Directed by Roy Andersson. Starring Martin Serner, Bengt Bergius, Tatiana Delaunay, Mattias Königsson, Vanja Rosenberg, Anders Hellström, Thore Flygel.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., May 7, 2021

Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman once described Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson as a “slapstick Ingmar Bergman,” which is as apt a designation as any. Both artists lay bare the plights of anguished souls in existential crisis, but Andersson’s view of the prosaic absurdity of the human condition is often tempered with humor that almost, but not quite, softens the blow. Black humor, perhaps, but I prefer playwright Eugène Ionesco’s term “tragic farce.”

Andersson’s films – About Endlessness marks his fourth feature in two decades – are not conventional narratives. They’re not even traditionally experimental, but rather a collection of intricately rendered living paintings depicting the minutiae of everyday life in all its mundane glory. A woman’s shoe heel breaks as she pushes a stroller through a train station. A father stops to tie his daughter’s shoe in the pouring rain as they walk to a birthday party. Two lovers float over the ruins of a once beautiful city. A man sobs as he holds his dead daughter after murdering her in an honor killing. A priest has lost faith in God, and his psychiatrist speculates that perhaps God doesn’t exist, and maybe we should just be glad to be alive. Three young women do a giddy, impromptu dance to a Delta Rhythm Boys classic for a handful of bar patrons. Funny, tragic, moving scenes unfold in Andersson’s meticulously crafted frames. In cafes, bedrooms, offices, street corners suffused in muted off-whites and grays, with characters (mostly nonprofessionals) participating in a sublime ballet of choreographed insecurity, doubt, and frustration, but also of tender and fragile grace.

And that is the brilliance of Andersson’s work, and why he is rightly referred to as one of the most important directors living today. He is able to utilize a rigid formalism to distill truly sublime moments of recognition, to convey complex emotional ideas in his pedestrian tableaux, skewed with just enough of his off-kilter sensibility to create a distance that makes the identification of our inadequacy as human beings a bit more comfortable. That distance may explain why a friend once remarked that she could admire Andersson’s films, but never really like them. It’s a valid point, and I don’t think I could live in his grotesquely mordant universe, but I will gladly visit whenever the opportunity arises. It is the theatre of the absurd at its most humane.

Available now as a virtual cinema release.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Roy Andersson Films
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
...

June 18, 2021

More by Josh Kupecki
All Light, Everywhere
Chilling and insightful look at the birth of our surveillance culture

June 18, 2021

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It
After 70 years of being someone else, the screen legend gets to be herself

June 18, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

About Endlessness, Roy Andersson, Martin Serner, Bengt Bergius, Tatiana Delaunay, Mattias Königsson, Vanja Rosenberg, Anders Hellström, Thore Flygel

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle