Reviews of Songs from the Second Floor
Displaying all 2 reviews
The first impression I had watching “Songs From the Second Floor” was of a collection of life metaphors boxed in a surrealistic shape. A slight discomfort. Later on, some scenes insisted on coming back to mind and they amazed me in their simplicity/originality/reality. Blessed be the one who sits down.
This quote is from the Peruvian poet César Vallejo, whose poem “Stumble Between Two Stars” inspired Roy Andersson´s film. “Vallejo created a wrenching poetic language for Spanish that radically altered the shape of its imagery and the nature of its rhythms. No facile trend setter, Vallejo forged a new discourse in order to express his own visceral compassion for human suffering.” Even if it´s not that difficult to be digested, pretty much the same can be said about Andersson´s film that succeeds in portraying Vallejo´s imaginary and our modern and “complicated” human condition.
- How are you?
- What can I say? It’s not easy being human.
Life is hard to everyone. But is it really that bad?
After sacrificing “the youth”, a man drinks and throw ups, drinks again and throw ups. A woman on the floor can’t get back up on her stool. It´s easier to keep drinking than to sit down*. Or in Michael Thomson ´s words in a review to BBC, “all activity is pointless”. Pointless such as the perhaps obvious, but still great scene at the airport where several people push overloaded trolleys, piled high with towers of luggage.
There’s a time for misery. But it’ll soon be over. Only a few more yards and we’ll have left this damned dump under the clouds for good.
Obvious or not, we go through life carrying lots of unnecessary things and we´ll still try to take them with us when it comes the time to reach the second floor.
*Of course this is not what the scene means; it is just an analogy I made with “sits down” meaning to stop and think on what causes you pain.
- Currently 3.0/5 Stars.
It took me a few days to process this film, to go from detached amusement to gradual acknowledgement of something approximating comprehension on my part. Perhaps I’m slow — admittedly, I’m not the most enlightened cinephile around, especially not here — but I’ve always had difficulty connecting with abstract art, and Songs from the Second Floor certainly qualifies.
The vignettes that comprise this film are linked by the barest of threads and filmed almost entirely in wide shots: distant and uninvolved. Andersson argues in his interview that one can observe a lot about a character in a wide shot, that it reveals a character’s place in relation to the world. This quality is noticeable in many of the scenes, such as the one in which the victim of an unfortunate magic accident (the sawing-a-guy-in-half trick gone horribly wrong) tries to sit down for breakfast. The sickly colors of his apartment, the smallness of his frame in relation to most of the furniture and his giantess of a wife, the laughter-inducing stammers of pain he emits as his wife plonks him down at the dining table like a rag doll… Observing all of this at arm’s length makes it all the more surreal and comical, like watching the hapless denizens of a Monty Python sketch.
Each such scene is marvelously crafted and can be appreciated on its own, like paintings at an exhibition. A man covered in soot (who becomes one of the connecting threads of the film) rides the subway and his fellow commuters suddenly break into a chorus. A spontaneous traffic jam inexplicably snarls an entire city into gridlock, everyone suddenly needing to go in the same direction at the same time. A wealthy, former high-ranking military officer, now reduced to senility and trapped in a metal crib at a retirement home, sits on a bedpan while military officials solemnly salute him on his birthday. A wood-carving of Jesus Christ swings freely on a crucifix as a salesman goes looking for a spare nail to affix the son of God’s free hand back on the cross. A horde of self-flagellating business people fill the streets and merge into the citywide traffic jam.
The themes of the tableaux point towards a decaying society of corruption, financial collapse, racial hatred, and the (literal) sacrificing of the innocent and the good. The abstract detachment from the subjects was initially an obstacle for me since I respond better when I engage emotionally with characters or a story. When I left the screening, I did not feel much at all, which I interpreted at the time as disinterest. This dystopian world may be funny, but it’s funny in the way we might laugh at a stranger getting smacked in the nuts with a baseball: we feel some sympathy for him yet we’d rather laugh at him. Yet the imagery and isolated moments of comical despair leave a permanent imprint. At once nightmarish and yet beautiful in its strangeness, Songs from the Second Floor is a sight to be seen.
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.