Monday, 23 May 2011

Blessed be the one who sits down.

No 213 - Songs from the Second Floor
Director - Roy Andersson

It takes a good 30 minutes before anything bordering a narrative structure creeps into Songs from the Second Floor. Initially it seems that we're dealing with sketches. Returning characters with their own returning issues. Weird little middle aged members of middle management and their weird little life problems. The scenes don't seem particularly linked. We watch a magician fail to saw a man in half and that man subsequently be rushed to hospital. We see a man get fired and beg for his job. We see a man get viciously attacked as he searches for someone. The scenes seem barely interlinked, ranging from the weird staccato delivery of Lynch at his most inaccessible to the weirdness of Monty Python.

And yet, as the film progresses, you realise that there is something happening. It may not be a story in any shape or form, but it is still a cinematic study and something very beautiful. There are scenes which are massively symbolic, The traffic which hasn't moved for hours as everyone is going the same way (and later the mass of people struggling with their baggage) is a sign of our own progress, likewise the old people sacrificing youth and still not getting what they want... it all seems to have a massive message of the futility and shallowness of our own times. How our common quest for progress leaves us standing still. How we destroy the young to get something... some gain.
How we sell hope and beliefs for a cheap buck.

Whilst this sounds very bleak, bare in mind that this is only MY interpretations, and the film itself is darkly funny and at times incredibly beautiful. Songs from the Second Floor revels in the mundanity in which these surreal exchanges and events take place. A suburban dystopian nightmare. But ones where there are moments of utter beauty.
I want to focus on two moments - both of which are musical. Its the music which really makes these moments shine. But it is also the simple, understated way in which they're presented. For me, the most incredible moment was the 'Silent Song' - an operatic frame within a commuter train service.

It is just a lovely moment. The second moment is when one of the characters plays the recorder with his girlfriend. Again... it is simple, and beautiful.

The film claims to be a filmic representation of poetry by César Vallejo - and there is much talk of poetry, and many repeated lines throughout. I have to admit, I don't know the fella's poems so I can't really comment. What I can say is that the film is haunting, beautiful, at times hilarious and always always perplexing.

Basically this is everything I hoped The Temptation of St Tony was going to be when I sat down to watch it. I was severely disappointed by old Tones. So this was a welcome joy when it comes to surrealist cinema.

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