Nous, les Vivants

Du levande

Roy Andersson :: Sweden, France, Germany :: 2007 :: 1h34

A fluid succession of minimalist static-camera scenes exposing the human condition in an abstracted Swedish city. The scenes do not make up a coherent story-line, but rather combine to show different sides to our existence. And that existence is not a particularly joyful one. It is Nordic-ally absurd. Theatrically comical. But mostly, we are portrayed as painfully selfish and self-centred. There are many characters, but after an introduction you will never know if you will see them again. Perhaps they will even talk to you if they come back, or some of them come back as side-characters in someone else’s scene. Dream and reality alternate indistinguishably in Andersson’s sterile pale green-beige modernist world.

To take the opening scene: A man is sleeping on a couch in an office, his back turned to us. We hear a train ride by outside. Nothing happens. We have the time to look around the room. The colours have all faded into what will be the film’s dominant beige. Everything looks as if it has been drawn with colour pencils, especially the dreary urban view from the open window. Some confusion installs itself in us, when we realise the table must be real, but the computer on his desk could actually be drawn on. Our confusion takes us to the opposite wall, where we prophetically find a  reproduction of Picasso’s Don Quichotte.

Just as we are developing our taste for the absurd, we notice that the sound of the passing train must be related to the blowing of the curtains. But is the train then passing through the street? The proximity of the sound and the view from the window do not seem to coincide. Is this even possible? But as we are wondering about the correlation, all of a sudden, the man on the couch wakes up startled by a dream. The bolding, moustached man is out of breath. Visibly distressed, he tells us that he had had a nightmare. He dreamt that bombers were coming.

From one scene to another, we are taught a lesson in humility before life, as a plea for a little more understanding for our fellow human beings. We are obliged to take our lives as it is presented to us, which is filled with imperfections as is so poignantly expressed in a scene of a woman praying for the forgiveness of others. But the sins of those which make up our society are not only exceptionally well identified, but also so many that the priest is obliged to get her to stop so that he can up close the church for the night! As you will have understood, this is a gem of a film. Make sure you are ready for it so that you can grant it the attention it deserves. It is one of those films which can change your life.


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