Saturday 29 November 2014

Songs from the Second Floor [2000]

Songs from the Second Floor, made after a staggering gap of 25 years after his previous feature Giliap, kick-started ‘Grandeur of Existence’ trilogy, Andersson’s darkly funny, quietly melancholic and deeply existential meditation. Though this too was an episodic film like Du Levande, the central story focused on Kalle (Lars Nordh), a rotund, middle-aged furniture seller, depressed that his shop has been gutted by fire, even though, as is eventually revealed, it was a deliberate case of arson for collecting the insurance money; he’s distressed by the mental breakdown of his elder son and is being constantly haunted by the ghost of a man he’d once borrowed money from. The narrative comprised of various other vignettes – a depressive man, who refuses to take a day off for his wife, finds upon arriving at office that he’s been fired; a magic sequence gone horribly wrong when the portly magician ends up accidentally severing the stomach of a volunteer; a young blindfolded girl being thrown off a cliff as part of a religious carnival; a businessman finds his ingenious idea of selling Christ’s idols not taking off; a wealthy but senile former General celebrating his 100th birthday. Meanwhile a massive traffic jam, reminiscent of the Tati masterpiece Playtime, has gripped the city. Andersson covered such diverse themes as religious bigotry, cold-heartedness of corporates, varying repercussions of economic meltdown, frenzy and hysteria surrounding the new millennium, the cruelty of ageing, etc., through the idiosyncratic array of tableaus, for this artistically ambitious film that was simultaneously, hilarious, witty, grim, farcical, surrealistic, poignant, satirical, bitter and mordant, having minimal dialogues, composed by former ABBA member Benny Andersson, and marvelously shot using long, static takes.

Director: Roy Andersson
Genre: Black Comedy/Social Satire/Religious Satire
Language: Swedish
Country: Sweden


Chris said...

You covered most of what makes the film great. The absurd situations and black comedy just makes me laugh out loud. Glad you appreciate it too. The financial crisis makes the film even more relevant today, even though it was put together well before the stock markets tumbled. Has a Kafka-esque, doomed atmosphere. Not for everyone though.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Chris. Glad that you used the epithet 'Kafkaesque', as despite the sun-washed photography, there indeed were Kafkaesque undercurrents in the film's bleak, absurdist & ironic proceedings. A truly wonderful film this was!

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