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2012/06/10

Du Levande (You, the Living)

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless


It might be a poor choice to start things off by telling you that I spent an evening laughing at other people’s misery recently.  But, I assure you; I’m really not an awful person.  I was watching Swedish director Roy Andersson’s 2007 film, Du Levande (You, the Living), and I was maybe not so much laughing at the characters but with them.

Hard to believe, but not everyone is a music fan
You, the Living is a film full of dry, dark humor that not only makes the audience laugh, but makes them feel less alone and more connected by showing that there truly are some very universal things that people all over the world have in common.  It's presented in vignette format, with fifty different scenarios.  In some, we’re merely privy to moments in people’s lives, looking on as they happen.  In others, the characters turn to the audience and speak directly to us, explaining their thoughts and feelings.  The vignettes follow a variety of people in all walks of life, with viewers sure to be able to relate to at least one (but probably more) of them.  There’s a woman whose catch phrase throughout her scenes in the film is “No one understands me”; she’s convinced that if she just had a motorcycle to get out of the city and away from all of her problems, she’d be happy.  A young woman has a crush on a singer in a local rock band, and believes that if she could only win his heart and marry him, life would be good.  A man is shown in an amorous moment with his lover, yet he’s somewhere else completely, carrying on the entire time about how poorly his retirement fund is doing.  (Note: this particular scene does show some nudity and depicts a sexual situation, but it’s presented very humorously; it was one of many that made me laugh out loud.)  In a different scene, a father is in the middle of a very important event, only to be interrupted by a son who needs to borrow money from him--again.  You won't find polished supermodel types or gorgeous leading men in this movie; just realistic characters that the audience can empathize with.  There's also a lot of "real time" lingering in scenes, and that's complimented by mostly uncomplicated settings, usually without many bright colors or strong light.  Since so much of the film deals with the idea of everyday struggles and some of the more mundane aspects of life though, the drabness is a perfect technique.

Anna, pining after singer/guitarist, Micke Larsson 

To call the film “understated” would be both true and a mistake.  It makes definite statements on the human condition, profound in their simplicity, but does it without in-your-face effects or fast pacing.  This is Andersson’s trademark style though: lingering scenes and absurdist comedy.  Andersson’s professional career has focused mostly on advertisements (he has over four hundred of them to his credit), but he’s also directed several short films over the past three decades, as well as four feature-length films.  A new one, A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence, is in production for a 2014 release.

This man learns that being polite to the person holding the hair clippers is always the best policy
I’ve never seen a film quite like this before, and that’s a shame.  You, the Living shows that even when we feel utterly alone, we’re far from it.  There are usually other people out there who understand what we’re going through, be it next door or halfway around the globe.  And the cliché holds true; often, things could be worse.  I highly recommend checking out not only this film, but some of the advertisements that Andersson has directed too (various clips can be found on YouTube).  To visit the IMDb page for the film, go to www.imdb.com/title/tt0445336.

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