Reviewer's Rating 4 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
Songs From the Second Floor (2001)

Next time you go shopping at IKEA, it could be your fortune (as opposed to theirs). Lars Nordh, who plays the principal character here (a man who sets fire to his ailing business), was choosing a tablecloth with his wife when he was spotted by Swedish director Roy Andersson, much revered as a serious artist at home. As his actors have to deal with only a small range of gestures, say very little and look like they've just walked in off the street (which is effectively what Mr Nordh did), IKEA-man looks perfectly at home as an arsonist.

He is at the centre of quite a number of scenes which - shot through with intense visual power - are highly memorable. More like an essay told in pictures than a conventional film, dialogue is placed on the back burner as Anderson lets us glimpse an assortment of empty, unfulfilled or troubled lives. He takes the Millennium as a prompt for the world to descend even further into complete absurdity, and the madness places the arsonist and others on a really slippery slope. He weeps with guilt while his son, to quote him, "has gone nuts through writing poetry" (he is in a clinic). Meanwhile, a clerk of 30 years' loyal service has been abruptly fired (his over-stuffed boss tries to shake him off his ankle on his way to the golf-course), a magician's sawing-trick goes badly wrong, and a completely solid traffic-jam adds to the meaninglessness and stress. The anxiety of these characters is clear when they lie awake in the dead of night. The implication of the frequent refrain "blessed be the one who sits down" is that all activity is pointless.

Leaping from one arresting image to another, "Songs from the Second Floor" has all the enjoyable randomness of a very lively dream and so manages to be compelling, amusing and unsettling at the same time. It thoroughly deserved the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

End Credits

Director: Roy Andersson

Writer: Roy Andersson

Stars: Lars Nordh, Stefan Larsson, Torbjorn Fahlstrom, Sten Andersson, Lucio Vicino

Genre: Drama

Length: 98 minutes

Cinema: 16 February 2001

Country: Denmark/Norway/Sweden

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