Swede Roy Andersson’s You the Living isn’t a narrative film so much as a series of existential vignettes about people with pallid complexions and dreary lives. The outlook is bleak but hilarious.
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7 Aug 2008 - 5:09 PM  UPDATED 16 Jan 2014 - 3:53 PM

Much of the film's 94 minutes are spent recreating the elaborate dreams had by a steady stream of protagonists, whose waking states are so dour and depressing you wonder if they'd ever bother to set an alarm clock.

Sight gags litter the landscape and a droll undercurrent results in each scene building to a darkly comic payoff. A suicidal woman is coaxed away from thoughts of topping herself by the promise of a baked dinner. A bad-tempered middle manager en route to a meeting, incurs the wrath of his barber. A weary psychiatrist complains about the self-indulgent patients that fill his waiting room. And the miserable members of a Dixieland marching band provide the film's oddly inappropriate soundtrack.

The production values have the geometry and attention to detail of a Jeffrey Smart painting, albeit with a more restrictive colour palette of grey and um, slightly less grey.

If you've seen Andersson's earlier work, Songs from the Second Floor, you're familiar with this truly unique filmmaker's deadpan delivery of a life-affirming message. It's cold, damp, dark and depressing. And it's brilliant.

- Fiona Williams