A true masterpiece. One of the most interesting movies coming out of Sweden in a long time. It is breathtaking, beautiful and important.
The scenes are treated more as theater set-pieces, there is only one camera move in the whole film. But Roy has crafted them so carefully as to create a beautiful photo of each scene.
Some interesting trivia before you continue with the review below. The main actor was discovered when Roy was visiting an IKEA store. He has no acting background at all.
Being a man with desire for control almost all sets were created in Roy Andersson’s studio, for example, the whole train station interior was built there.
Instead of me trying to write a review, I blatantly copied another on the spot one.
Like the red-eye passengers in The Langoliers, the people in Songs From The Second Floor exist in a dead moment in time. They inhabit a city full of people, where creativity, imagination and beauty have fled; their world is passing on, even if they are not. The stock market has crashed, religion is dead, everyone wants to leave (both literally and metaphorically), social order is starting to break down, and all anyone wants to do is wait for it to pass. It is a startling vision from Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson that took four years to make, and it represents a perfect marriage of theatre, cinema and pure art.
Songs From The Second Floor is more of a sustained mood than a film. There are plotlines worth following and characters to get to know, but they are secondary to Andersson’s mise-en-scene. His absolute creative control shows in every carefully constructed scene; each detail down to the hue of the sun in the background is complementary to the surroundings and action. Andersson’s city looks like any other featureless downtown core, but feels like a dream. Whole streets are devoid of people while others have traffic jams winding into infinity. Hordes of businessmen wander in packs, flagellating themselves as they roam. Others gaze into crystal balls to discern some iota of hope. A salesman tries to rejuvenate his business by selling models of Jesus on the Cross. When his endeavour fails, he stares at the crucifix and asks, “Who could ever hope to profit from a crucified loser?” A group of stockbrokers is so far out of touch with reality that they could swear they are seeing the house across the street move. The owner of a furniture store torches everything to get the insurance money, finding nothing left in his life for which to care. He’ll encounter some ghosts, but by the end it becomes difficult to tell whether the living or the dead are better off.