It’s a bitter-sweet scenario that would fit perfectly with the world-view his many films describe; after five decades as an increasingly loved and revered film-maker, Roy Andersson first screened his final film in Venice back in September 2019, and the release was held back over a year to plan a substantial marketing and awards push. That About Endlessness was released simultaneously with a near national lockdown that closed most cinemas in the UK is a cruel irony that might afford the Swedish writer/director a wry smile; sometimes the best plans in the world prove futile in the face of the onset of global madness.
Of course, Being a Human Person, last month’s documentary about the making of About Endlessness suggested that this new film wouldn’t be much cop; that’s far from true. As usual, this is a series of vignettes, largely based on paintings; there’s no show-stopper like the surreal matching band from A Pigeon Sat on a Bench, but there’s also lots of profound and thought-provoking moments, from an endlessly matching army to an embracing couple flying through the night sky. Andersson can greate a genuine narrative in a single frame, and that gift makes for a compelling watch for arthouse audiences.
About Endlessness feels rather like a swan song, with a deliberately slight coda to puncture any grandiose notions of an author’s final statement. Allusions to religion (a modern day crucifixion in a busy city street) and history (Hitler, a firing squad) pepper the film, but there’s also shafts of wit and constant surprises; a priest indulges his secret passion for alcohol, a father struggles to tie his daughter’s shoes as they walk in a rain-storm.These moments all land, even if the overall connective tissue is for the viewer to describe.
At less than 80 minutes, About Endlessness serves as a greatest hits reprise by the director, and should be manna from heaven for fans of his unique skittish style. It’s perhaps less politically motivated that his earlier work, but it’s every bit as fascinating to observe each tableau and work out what the point is. Andersson is a true cinematic great, and About Endlessness is a perfect coda to a storied career.
About Endlessness is released in cinemas and streaming in the UK from Nov 6th 2020.
Thanks to Curzon for advanced access to this title.