An endless movie about nothing

F No recognizable genre
Written & directed by Roy Andersson

The best thing about Roy Andersson’s extremely weird film, About Endlessness, is its length. This Swedish, German, and Norwegian picture runs only 76 minutes. The bad part is that, as the title suggests, the film really does feel endless.

When I describe a film as weird or unique, I’m generally giving it a compliment. But not here. This movie isn’t enjoyable to watch. It won’t change your life. It has few things to say, and those are obvious, such as “war is bad.”

The closest the film comes to having an important character is a priest who has lost his faith. He dreams of being crucified. He doesn’t know if he should fake it or get another career. The woman he’s sleeping with (I’m not sure if he’s Catholic) can’t help me. He goes to a psychiatrist, without any kind of resolution.

You’re probably thinking that this guy should make a very interesting protagonist. But Andersson never lets you close to him, or anyone else. And I mean that literally. The camera is almost always so far away you can’t see people’s faces. But even on the rare occasion you get a shot close enough to see an expression, the camera is still unusually far back. There’s not a single close-up, nor a mid-shot, in the whole film.

This is about as close to a close-up you’ll see in ABOUT ENDLESSNESS

The narration doesn’t help. Every so often, a scene starts with a flat, female voice starting a sentence with “I saw a man who”…something. Occasionally, the narrator “saw a woman” or “saw a car,” or something else. It rarely matters. You can clearly see exactly what is vocally described, even if you’re seeing it from very far away.

I mentioned war earlier, and it’s pretty clear that Andersson doesn’t like it. One image, important enough for the movie’s poster, shows two lovers floating over a destroyed city. There’s a military execution, a shot of prisoners-of-war marching to their camps, and a scene of Hitler in his bunker. I think that last one was intended to be funny.

I’m not sure, but there are two scenes that may have been inspired by Jacques Tati’s comedies. One, early in the film, involves a waiter who keeps pouring wine long after he should stop, but the gag needed a punchline. The other one, near the end, involves a dentist, and is actually funny. It’s the only scene in the film worth watching.

About Endlessness is one of the worst films I’ve seen in years. Luckily, it’s a short feature. If you still want to see it, It will be available Friday at the Roxie and Rafael websites via Virtual Cinema.