Songs from the Second Floor(2000) dir. Roy Andersson
Starring Stefan Larson
Review by Blair Stewart
It is the end of the world and the salarymen are selling their stocks in Jesus. Traffic jams stretch into the horizon and board meetings are interrupted by the rude intrusion of tumbling buildings. Corporations have fallen back on pagan rituals in order to boost their portfolios. We're all going to die, what do we do?
Rare is a film in which you can take every moment, every frame, snip it, enlarge it, nail it to your wall and then marvel at the eye that captured it, a singular work of art. Kubrick had that quality, much of Antonioni, Fellini too. And after a quarter-century hiatus following a commercial failure in the 1970’s director Roy Andersson emerged from the wilderness of Scandinavian advertisements to join them with this unique work.
It is a challenge to tell you what this film is about, or even what it is. And the best way that I could best describe it is 'The Capitalist Apocalypse in Sweden interpreted by Gary Larson's "The Far Side.” That is my description, but I fail to do this movie justice in its sadness and dark humor and bitter social commentary. Andersson captures his deadpan Rapture with astonishing deep-focus framing and forced perspective, the camera never moves, leaving your eyes to wander a surreal canvas as a baffled civilization copes with the death of materialism. You could be mistaken for thinking that to view this would be a depressing experience, but if you have an affinity for wry poker-faced satire, if you find joy in an artist coming out of nowhere and showing his full potential, if you ever wanted to experience a film that you could previously only comprehend viewing in your dreams, here you are.
One last thing, you'll never, ever, ever forget the subway scene.
Available on DVD: Songs From the Second Floor