Songs from the Second Floor (2000)

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Upon seeing A Pigeon Sat on a Branch earlier this year I immediately declared my love for Roy Andersson. I knew I had to catch up with his other films pronto. So finally I arrive at my first stop: Songs from the Second Floor.

This is the first in the trilogy that Andersson would finally complete with Pigeon. It took him fourteen years to get them out there but the painstaking attention to detail is present in every shot. It’s difficult to review these films. Like Pigeon and its predecessor You, the Living (the next on my watchlist) Songs from the Second Floor is a dark comedy built up of single-take vignettes. There’s no real story to speak of. The connective tissue is more technical and thematic than plot. That being said, the snapshots we are presented with here are more connected than they are in the later film. We actually see characters return and progress in their sorry little lives rather than just drop in on them once. I might be way off as I am watching these out of order months apart, but I suspect certain locations are actually present across the multiple films too. There are one or two backdrops in here that seem familiar to me, which makes the idea of a grand rewatch very exiting.

I’ve never seen films like these before. I’ve never seen a vision of life and fantasy so blissfully skewed and strange. Andersson’s world is surely a miserable one to exist within, but as mere spectators to it it is a joy to behold. It is a farcical, predominantly beige and pale universe where mishaps, bad luck and simple twists of fate are everyday occurrences. I love all the handcrafted weirdness and nutty background detail. All of the faces and body-types are cast to perfection. I’m a big fan of films built from single-take tableaus too so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered these films existed. Maybe the reason I resisted binge-watching them immediately after Pigeonwas to avoid the disappointment I will no doubt feel once I have no more to discover. The whole thing is just so complete and beautifully realised. I’ve seen two now and they are both entertaining, exciting, surprising and enlightening in equal measure. To put it simply: I am in love.

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