Songs from the Second Floor (2001)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Black Comedy, Surrealist Film  |   Release Date - Jul 3, 2002 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - Denmark , Norway , Sweden   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Derek Armstrong

For those seeking the freedom of a total breakdown in linear filmmaking, Songs From the Second Floor should be a gas. Being Swedish is not what makes it foreign; in fact, the Swedes who watched it probably agreed with everyone else that it came from another planet. Roy Andersson's prize-winning essay of fractured modern existence is so weird that it's impossible to look away from the screen. Populated by unknown actors who have very few lines, walking through a city in which everyone seems to have subtly gone crazy at the same moment, the film offers a spectrum of disjointed freak show acts. In one scene, a drunk woman repeatedly tries to climb back on her barstool, only to fail with machine-like regularity; next to her, a man in a tuxedo continually vomits. In another scene, a blindfolded girl is forced to walk a plank into a pit full of broken stones, as religious figures and dignitaries stand watch. It's all pretty ponderous, but surprisingly funny. Adding to his already distinct visuals, Andersson frames his scenes as single shots that last minutes on end, often with bizarre traffic jams of people crawling through the background. As a result, the film slows down to molasses pace on more than one occasion -- and that's hardly the only element liable to turn audiences away. But it's unlike anything previously captured on film, and with this kind of experimental genius/madness at work, sometimes it's best just to sit back and absorb.