About Endlessness (M) - 76 minutes
Faith and loss are but two subjects tackled in an artistic look at life, struggle, turmoil and joy from Swedish auteur Roy Andersson.
A series of seemingly disconnected vignettes builds a picture of the world (pre-COVID-19) in which we live.
It is a reflection of life in all its beauty and cruelty, splendour and banality.
Simultaneously an ode and a lament, About Endlessness presents a kaleidoscope of that which is eternally human.
In other words, it is an infinite story of the vulnerability of existence.
After each scene, the camera fades to black.
Over the top of some pieces is a female voiceover, which inevitably starts with the words “I saw a” … man, woman or couple doing something.
For instance, “I saw a woman … incapable of showing shame.”
“I saw a young man who had yet to find love.”
“I saw a man who had lost his faith.”
“I saw a couple of lovers floating above a city renowned for its beauty, now in ruins.”
Inspired by the character of Scheherazade in the Arabian Nights, this marks the first time that Andersson has used such a narrator in his films.
He was influenced by the voice in Hiroshima Mon Amour. He tried a man and then himself, before settling on a female vocalisation.
Inconsequential moments take on the same significance as historical events in About Endlessness.
There is something stark and, at times, poetic in what Andersson has crafted.
The snippets appear to be sounding boards or talking points – a reflection of where the world is at, and, arguably, has always been.
What can and does happen to us? How much do we care? How much of it is random?
Without working my way chapter and verse through every component, some of the images are particularly powerful.
Amongst them is a Priest who has lost his way, which follows a man being flagellated as he drags a heavy wooden cross through the streets to cries of “crucify”.
There is Hitler’s hollow face in the wake of the destruction of the Nazi empire and a defeated army trudging through snow to prison camps in Siberia.
Mostly, one scene doesn’t appear to have any link to another, but on occasions we loop back to an earlier reference point.
A case in point is a middle-aged man who realises many decades on that he’s wronged a former fellow school student and later is put out by the fact that that pupil has gone on to achieve more than he has.
There’s the joy of a grandmother taking photographs of her young grandchild in his father’s arms and three girls dancing in the streets outside a café.
However, most images presented are more troubling and concern issues.
A man who doesn’t trust banks keeps his money under his mattress, a waiter fails to concentrate and pours red wine over a crisp white tablecloth next to a patron in a fine dining restaurant.
With an empty coffin nearby, a man is tied to a post by soldiers and begs for his life, while parents who have lost their son in a war lay flowers against his gravestone.
The camera often appears to linger to sheet home the stark imagery.
About Endlessness is a film for selective tastes.
It will undoubtedly confound many and attract others, for it certainly doesn’t follow any conventional narrative.
I find myself in the latter camp. I appreciated Andersson’s efforts and the fact that nothing was explained, merely presented, allowing me to lose myself in my own thoughts about what was depicted.
Rated M, About Endlessness scores an 8 out of 10.