By Ed Howard
[You, the Living is now playing at Manhattan's Film Forum. Click here for screening information.]
You, the Living is Roy Andersson's follow-up to his remarkable 2000 film Songs From the Second Floor. Like its predecessor, You, the Living is a loose collection of absurdist vignettes set in a dull, gray city full of odd, depressive, quirky people. The film has no central narrative, it's simply a set of scenes, with characters whose lives occasionally overlap but still never really add up to a larger story. Instead, the stories are linked thematically, by Andersson's concern for the condition of people's lives in the modern era. His characters are beaten down, often terminally unhappy, trapped in dull routines and useless jobs. Andersson's vision is unsettling—dreary, absurd, shot through with dark, satirical humor—and yet not entirely bleak nor entirely hopeless. What this film is about, more than anything, is the possibility of finding some happiness in this life, some joy amidst all the ugliness, some pleasure to go with the pain. The film's central idea is the importance of living for the present, of enjoying oneself when death lingers unseen just around the bend, ready to strike at any moment. Andersson's characters are acutely aware of death and misery, and perhaps this primes them to also recognize the little moments of pleasure they are able to find at intervals.
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