by Paul Hansen 29 April, 2021
About Endlessness is a movie which I think will particularly appeal to audiences of art-house films.
A Swedish movie written and directed by Roy Andersson, the film consists of a series of vignettes. A press release describes the movie as a “reflection on human life in all its beauty and cruelty, its splendor and banality… About Endlessness presents a kaleidoscope of all that is eternally human, an infinite story of the vulnerability of existence.” Considering the fact that the movie comes from the land of Ingmar Bergman, it is perhaps not surprising that About Endlessness deals to one extent or another with profound issues, but a number of sketches and the film itself are open to individual interpretation.
One of the most memorable vignettes is a long and lingering shot of a couple magically flying over a bombed-out city (Cologne). A viewer can draw their own conclusions as to what this signifies.
Another memorable scene is of a young man who gives a detailed explanation to a young woman about thermodynamics and how energy can only transform into some other form, and therefore theoretically they could both be reincarnated as a potato or tomato. The young woman states in a deadpan manner that she would prefer to be reincarnated as a tomato. I am not sure whether this sketch is supposed to be funny or not, but I couldn’t help but think that it reminded me of the atmosphere of a Saturday Night Live skit and how Gilda Radner, John Belushi or Bill Murray would have run with the material.
To give a sense of the grab bag quality of the procession of sketches, immediately after the clip about the relative merits of returning as a potato or tomato, there is a scene of a shell-shocked Hitler in his bunker, followed by a scene of a crying man on a commuter train stating “I don’t know what I want.” A kaleidoscope indeed. A particularly poignant vignette focuses on the simple joy of watching snowflakes fall from the sky.
In some respects About Endlessness reminds me of a much slower-paced existentialist version of the 1960/70s TV show Laugh-In with its endless variety of unpredictable skits. A dramatic arc of sorts is provided by a priest who has lost his faith. Somewhat similar to the work of Woody Allen, the film deals with existentialist issues in an alternatively tragic, comic and absurdist manner. Also similar to Allen’s output, there is an occasional breaking of the fourth wall where an actor directly addresses the audience.
It may take a while to adjust to the very measured pace of About Endlessness, but those who stay with its 76 minutes I think will find it rewarding, or at least different.
About Endlessness, in Swedish with English subtitles, opens in theatres and on-demand on April 30.