About Endlessness (2021; Roy Andersson)
By Daniel Barnes
*Opening Friday, April 30, at the Roxie Virtual Cinema and Rafael@Home.
“What should I do know that I have lost my faith?”
I named Roy Andersson’s “righteous and unsettling” A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence my top film of 2015. It was the third and final film in Andersson’s Living Trilogy, after Songs from the Second Floor and You, the Living. However, it was my first experience with the director’s mordant comedic sensibility and Playtime-on-antidepressants visual style. It seems like most Andersson fans harbor an irrational attachment to their particular entry point, but Pigeon remains very special to me.
Fast-forward slower than you ever could have imagined possible to 2021, and Andersson’s follow-up film finally hits virtual theaters (it premiered nearly two years ago at the Venice International Film Festival). About Endlessness has a drabber color palate and less of an epic scope than previous Andersson joints, but it continues his love of bleakly existentialist blackout sketches with Kubrick-ian compositions.
As with Pigeon, About Endlessness touches on the horrifying absurdity, pain and beauty of existence. More specifically, About Endlessness is about people trying and failing to find meaning and connection in a cold, cruel world. These themes take their most pointed form in a priest distraught by lack of faith and fantasizing about his crucifixion. Unfortunately, his therapist has a bus he needs to catch, so that will have to wait.
Overall, About Endlessness feels somewhat minor compared to the Living films, a lower-energy variation on past works. However, Andersson set a high bar with those films, and About Endlessness still forges its own brown-and-gray identity. The image of an entwined couple floating wordlessly over a dead city will haunt me for a while.