Songs From The Second Floor

Twenty-six years after his second feature-length film, Swedish director Roy Andersson completed with his third, a beautiful and bizarre series of 46 exquisitely composed vignettes that describe nothing less than the human psyche at the end of the millenium. In a nameless, cheerless city, economic order appears to be on the verge of collapse: Business are...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Twenty-six years after his second feature-length film, Swedish director Roy Andersson completed with his third, a beautiful and bizarre series of 46 exquisitely composed vignettes that describe nothing less than the human psyche at the end of the millenium. In a nameless, cheerless city, economic order appears to be on the verge of collapse: Business are drastically downsizing, stock prices are plunging and it seems that anyone with access to a car is abandoning the city, creating a traffic jam of cataclysmic proportions. Panicked residents console themselves with empty adages while seeking to appease the powers that be in bizarre ways. A long, slow-moving procession of men and women in business suits flagellate themselves in the streets; civic leaders and clergymen ceremoniously lead a blindfolded young girl (Helene Mathiasson) to edge of a cliff, then push her off. Among the citizenry are a magician (Lucio Vucina) who's lost his touch (he nearly saws a man in half for real), a company man (Sten Andersson) who, after 30 years of faithful service, is fired, and Kalle (Lars Nordh), a rotund furniture salesman who sets fire to his own store for the insurance money, then wanders the city moaning about how his life has gone up in flames. Unwilling to bear any responsibility for his life, Kalle blames fate for his misfortune, just as he blames poetry for the fact that his deeply depressed son (Peter Roth) is in a mental institution. Kalle only pauses to reflect on his life when he finds himself tailed by the ghost of Sven (Sture Olsson), a man from whom he had once borrowed money. Kalle admits he was later relieved to hear that Sven had committed suicide, relieving Kalle of his debt. But Sven isn't the only restless spirit haunting Kalle's world: At the end of the film, a parade of restless ghosts, including those of a Russian youth (Fredrik Sjogren) murdered by the SS and the young girl pushed from the cliff, wander the outskirts of the city. Between features, Andersson made two short films and a series of commercials that won numerous awards and acclaim from none other than Ingmar Bergman. It was in these TV spots that Andersson developed the style that makes this feature so distinctive: Deep perspective (often created using tromp l'oeil backgrounds), non-professional actors, fixed camera positions, no close-ups, single takes, flawless timing, no edits. Andersson creates a world that's at once surreal and disturbingly familiar; absurd, yet tremendously sad. The haunting score is by ABBA's Benny Andersson.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Twenty-six years after his second feature-length film, Swedish director Roy Andersson completed with his third, a beautiful and bizarre series of 46 exquisitely composed vignettes that describe nothing less than the human psyche at the end of the millenium… (more)

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