Directed by Roy Andersson
Starring: Jessika Lundberg, Elisabeth Helander, Eric Bäckman, Håkan Angser
“Be pleased then, you the living, in your delightfully warmed bed, before Lethe’s ice-cold wave will lick your escaping foot.”
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
When I saw You, the Living for the first time at the 2008 Nashville Film Festival, this film from Sweden absolutely shook my foundation. I had never seen anything like it, before or since. This is a slice of cinema you absolutely have to see to believe. It was recently released on DVD by Palisades Tartan.
You, the Living is a series of 50 short, deadpan and surreal vignettes that explore the essential humanity of the characters. Andersson utilized non professional actors and most of the dialogue and situations are presented by having the actors perform monologues. Andersson shot the film in his own studio on sets, with only one rain scene at a bus stop being shot outside.
The vignettes are not connected by a central plot. However, some of the stories and characters dovetail occasionally in a satisfying manner. Music is used in an intriguing way as well as it is performed live in some of the scenes and then meshed smoothly into the next scene.
Just an example of one of the vignettes: a woman laments her depressing life while her emotionally exhausted boyfriend and cute little dog look on. She says that she doesn’t want to live anymore, until her boyfriend mentions that his mother is going to be cooking a roast later for dinner. She then says she may stop by and then breaks into a song about how a long desired motorcycle would be the cure for her blues.
Another story finds a girl getting to meet her idol, Micke Larsson, guitar player for The Black Devils. He buys her and her friend a drink one night at a pub after a gig. She then spins this brief encounter into a heartbreaking unrequited romance and describes dreams that she has where the two of them are happily married.
A husband and wife allow a private quarrel at home to affect both of their jobs and in another, a psychiatrist rants about his patients having unrealistic expectations of happiness and complains about their selfishness. He then goes onto to say he doesn’t really listen to what they say but merely prescribes pills to get them out of the office faster.
This is just a few from the 50 that are offered in this groundbreaking film.
Nothing in this film was made using computer generated imagery. Even the city scenes seen in a seemingly aerial shot was a large model. It is absolutely breathtaking the skill and imagination that this film displays.
The performances are also remarkable; especially considering that Andersson selected nearly every actor from just spotting people that looked interesting on the streets of Stockholm.
You, the Living is a surreal masterpiece that impresses on every level, and then some. The sheer technical and compositional achievement Andersson has created in this film should be respected by not only every audience member that sees the film (either in the theater or on DVD), but other filmmakers and art directors working today. After experiencing this truly original film, it will have virtually rushing to locate and view Andersson other work.
This is a film that simply cannot be missed by any self respecting film fan.
You, the Living is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The colors are super bright, lines are clean and black levels are highly respectable. I did not notice any defects or compression artifacts.
You, The Living is presented in DTS 5.1, Dolby 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 in the original Swedish language with English subtitles. The audio is impressive with the dialogue being crystal clear and well mixed with the sound effects.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
You, the Living is presented in a standard amaray case with a subtle cover that portrays the wonderfully droll atmosphere of the film perfectly.
Fans of the film will enjoy the bonus material that is offered. First up, a Roy Andersson commentary that is informative and entertaining. A featurette about the sets entitled “Sample of Sets.
Excerpts from Andersson’s earlier films are offered as well as a 15 minute documentary about Studio 24 and the making of the film.
Closing things out is a featurette entitled Roy Andersson in New York Sept. 2009.
All things considered, a nice array of bonus material to enjoy.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 10/10
The Video 7.5/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (not an average) 8/10