TIFF 2019: About Endlessness (Roy Andersson, 2019, Sweden/Germany/Norway)

            Roy Andersson’s latest and sixth film, About Endlessness, clocks in at a mere 76 minutes. This running time makes the film feel somewhat minor compared to the director’s prior three films in his “Trilogy of Life”.  
We are in familiar territory here – if you have seen any of Andersson’s prior three films, you will know what to expect in Endlessness. There are few directors with a vision so singular that you can identify their films from a single frame. The stylistic choices we have come to know Andersson for – long extended takes involving tableu, artificially constructed sets, characters who move slowly and are caked with ghastly makeup – are all on display in his latest. There is something to admire in the singularity of Andersson’s vision – even if you hate the film, you must admit that there is no director quite like Andersson.
While Endlessness bears a number of similarities with its director’s prior films, there are some interesting differences that set this film apart. For one, there are very few connected narratives within the plot. I was able to count only two narratives that resurface across the film. Both are pure Andersson - one involving a priest who has lost his faith and is seeking help from a psychiatrist, another involving a man who is disturbed by an old acquaintance who does not acknowledge him in passing on the street. Most of the scenes, however, stand alone as vignettes. 
The vignettes run the gamut. Some of them are mundane, involving commonplace occurrences. Others are fantastical. One iconic vignette from the film features a couple floating in an embrace above the apocalyptic ruins of the city. Other vignettes seem more grounded in real life – one in particular, involving an honor killing, is deeply disturbing. Endlessness also shows Andersson exploring history, with several vignettes devoted to World War II, including one from the bunker of a famous dictator. 
While Endlessness comes off more disjointed thematically than the director’s prior films, it feels in general bleaker. There are laughs and humorous moments, but to a lesser degree than I remember in past efforts. Still, Endlessness is a fascinating watch.



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