by Rebecca M. Alvin
Roy Andersson’s About Endlessness opens with a transcendant image of a man and a woman in embrace seemingly floating in the clouds, unmoored and displaced. It is the perfect opening to a film in which the groundlessness and mystery of life are the very subjects, broad and unstructured as that sounds.
Beautifully composed shots, with dreamlike imagery and a profound stillness, are accompanied by brief dialogues and a narration by an unseen observer whose commentary is so minimal, it’s unclear why she is bothering to narrate. But in a sense this is the point of About Endlessness. It is about life in an abstract, ongoing way.
If you were to compare Andersson’s filmto the work of fellow Swede Ingmar Bergman’s work, it would make the latter look like an action movie director. It would be hard to nail down an exact plot for the collection of scenes that make up this film, and there is no real protagonist to identify with, but then again the story is about the collective experience rather than an individual one. And as the story is an examination of life itself, it is fittingly endless and plotless.
Aside from the cinematography and mise-en-scene about which I have already enthused, About Endlessness is surprisingly pithy for a film with such a meditative pace. At just about 76 minutes, it says what it has to say in the perfect amount of time, never feeling like it has beaten a dead horse. And there is also a subtle, dark humor to it. But it requires a certain mindset going into this film, particularly in the virtual streaming environment. It requires silence and attention and a willingness to let go of traditional expectations of cinematic storytelling. The characters face everyday struggles and crises that range from a priest questioning the existence of God to a man trying to fix his truck that has broken down in the middle of nowhere. The characters express grief, anxiety, anger, sorrow, joy, gratitude, and boredom. They do not take profound actions, but rather, in their unremarkable responses to each other, they exhibit human weakness more often than not.
Recommending or discouraging the viewing of this film is difficult as it is a highly unique experience that some will find torturously pretentious while others will find its spareness mentally clarifying and freeing. Check your mood before you decide.
About Endlessness is screening in Waters Edge Cinema’s virtual cinema April 30 – May 13. Visit provincetownfilm.org/cinema for tickets and information.