Monday, June 04, 2018

Sånger från andra våningen/Songs from the Second Floor (2000)

It can be an odd thing to meet someone who likes the same movie as you.  If the movie’s popular, it’s usually no big deal.  If it’s an obscure movie, it might take a moment to get over the fact that they’ve even heard of it.  It’s hard for me to judge how popular Roy Andersson is in the United States.  He’s directed several movies in Europe.  The thing is that I’ve never seen the coming attractions at the theaters or on mainstream American DVDs.  There are a few friends I can think of that might of heard of it.  However, I’d be surprised if most people I know would randomly admit to having seen any of his films.

Songs from the Second Floor is both written and directed by Andersson.  This is the first movie in what’s called his Living trilogy.  Like the other two, it’s a series of short segments.  This one differs in that the segments for a more cohesive narrative than with the other two movies.  (Each movie seems to be independent of the other two.)

For instance, a business owner torches his furniture showroom for the insurance money.  We also get to see his son, who is hospitalized after going crazy from writing insurance.  There’s also a magician who accidentally saws a volunteer.  (He was going for that sawed-in-half trick, although he apparently didn’t bother to actually learn the trick.)  Then, there’s a man who gets fired after working for a company for 30 years.  All of the story lines are tied together by traffic jams caused by self-flagellating businessmen who seem to have crashed the economy.

There is an obvious absurdist element to some of the scenes.  People gather to sacrifice a young girl.  In another scene, several economists pass around a crystal ball while an actual fortune teller is in attendance.  The scenes will have varying levels of understandability.  The crystal ball seems like an obvious jab at how well people can predict the economy.  (I mean, why not?)  I’m not as certain about the sacrifice, though.  Is it in attempt to save the economy by appeasing a deity that may not even exist or is it saying that we’ve actually sacrificed the future to save the present?

The movie seems to strike a balance between the abstract nature of an artistic movie and the accessibility of a more mainstream movie.  Some of the stuff shocks.  Some of it seems strange.  However, some of it almost makes sense.  (Everyone can understand how the insurance fraud works at a basic level.)  I think it leaves a lot of room for discussion, if anything.

I will say that I’m glad I watched the other two movies first.  I had done so because the third movie, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, was available streaming.  I didn’t realize at the time that it was part of a series, not that it would have mattered.  They can easily be viewed out of order.  Had I seen this movie first, I might not have made it all the way through.  I most likely would not have seen the other two and that would have been a loss.

This is definitely not a movie to watch with children.  There is nudity and violence.  I will say that if you can make it through this movie, you’d probably enjoy the other two.  This one seemed like it was almost a practice run that actually made the cut.  If you decide to skip the movies, I would understand.  This isn’t the kind of film that everyone would like.  If you’re looking for something different, it is worth a shot.

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