Thursday, August 12, 2010

Inconvenient Swedes

"I am a broker. There has to be some of them too."

Ah, come on - Swedish culture is fun. But since interest in my previous post on Hasse Ekman was quite absent (shame on you - I think that's a hate crime), perhaps one of the more eccentric Swedish film makers is more in your taste. I mean, we are rather weird at times.

"Abstinence or, for those who have someone, prolonged fidelity, are advised."

Roy Andersson is known for his bizarre and stale staging and absurd long takes, making almost every scene in his films inconveniently humorous. It's a spot on parody on Swedish manners: we do not like to speak in public, we are stale and uncomfortable with the unknown (whether it be strangers or foreign culture) and Jesus, we have no humor.

[Interestingly enough, this somewhat malicious portrait of Sweden is the extreme opposite of the other picture of us: the sexually promiscuous population that loves to bathe topless. Can't the world decide if we are boring or exotic? I feel this fact gives me great difficulties in defining my own personality.]

"You know - just about anything could suddenly turn up down there, in the warmth and damp."

Anyways. Roy Andersson, nicknamed "slapstick Ingmar Bergman) has made several popular films and TV commercials, often leaving the audience scratching their heads wondering whether to laugh at it, love it or reject it. Of course, if you choose to reject Roy Andersson you have no taste in art at all.

What I will now introduce to you is a work of his called Something Has Happened (Någonting har hänt, 1987), a short film that deals with the (then) ongoing AIDS paranoia. The humor in this piece is not the disease itself (we Swedes do still not maliciously laugh at disasters, mind you), but rather the different approaches doctors and the public take to explain the origins of the disease.

It was of course the homosexuals' fault. Or was it the monkeys? Or black people? It's really bizarre to see a an embarrassing "professor" trying to share his Negro-in-the-damp-jungles-of-Africa theory to a classroom full of wax-doll looking students, accompanied by bored coughing. The above mentioned blocking of the actors, stale and bizarre like a 16th century painting, add to the weird humor.

"It could have been a Negro who was wandering about down there one day - like this."

Something Has Happened was shown at film festivals world wide in 1993, and was obviously well received. I would have loved to hear the audience's opinion. Note that the film is not a documentary- it's a staged satire on common assumptions and theories at the time.

"And now to something completely different" (yes, I'm well-read on stiff humor from all nations) - Roy Andersson has in 40 years (1967-2007) only made nine movies, according to IMDb. Quality rather than quantity, it seems.

"It's very, very natural."

Give Roy 24 minutes of your time, or face a slow, painful death by ingesting plague infested rats.


Jihad Punk 77 said...

ive never heard of Roy Andersson but now I'm interested. Thanks.

Chris Edwards said...

Songs from the Second Floor is one the best movies I've ever seen. Andersson could have been successful in any era. Thanks for posting this.