You, the Living

As we remain confined in our homes, a return to the drab, claustrophobic rooms of Swedish auteur Roy Andersson feels slightly masochistic, strangely gratifying, and – above all – necessary.

Like last season’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, also by Roy Andersson, You, the Living presents us with a series of absurd comic vignettes set in a vaguely denatured Scandinavia.

Andersson’s pervading interest is in the gratifications we afford and fail to afford each other, guided by the Norse proverb “Man is man’s delight”. While his pallid characters look closer to dead than alive, and his scenarios catalogue a procession of thwarted attempts at what could broadly be called “life”, this is an affectionate and redemptive depiction of the here below, told by an expert in its reality. 

Already having unsettled the boundaries separating the real and unreal, in this film Andersson further deprives us of firm footing with an expansive interest in dreams.

As several extended vignettes depict the dreams – blissful and nightmarish – of characters from other vignettes, the relationship between each of the film’s fragmented scenes becomes weighted with enigma. 

Who is dreaming who? And where, among this puzzle, can we locate something we can call “reality”? 

Shot entirely on studio stages, Andersson’s film is painterly in its meticulous composition and the way that, as a consequence, each detail of a scene suggests intention (and fabrication). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He also references specific paintings – like Andy Warhol’s Electric Chair screenprints...

 

 

 

 

 

...and Gustav Wunderwald’s Brücke über die Ackerstraße Berlin Nord.

 

 

 

 

 

Both a timely study of the petty vicissitudes of domestic life and a disarmingly timeless dissection of our existential reality, You, the Living – for all its insipid pallor – is a curiously nourishing watch.

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