You, The Living: 300 Words.
Roy Andersson, 2007
You, The Living is a miserable and hilarious experience. In a series of deadpan vignettes, it follows the pallid, ghostly inhabitants of the Swedish town of Lethe and their misguided attempts to make meaning out of their lives and connections with each other. They are all selfish, stupid, scared, distracted and completely unable to communicate what they need to each other.
This petulant and ungenerous view of human nature is exactly why the film is so very funny. Except for one genuinely quite transcendent and touching moment towards the end of the film, it doesn’t attempt to redeem humanity at all. It is important that this one moment of sheer, preposterous joy is delivered in a dream sequence. In contrast to this, the other dream in the film features a man who sentences himself to death for trying to pull the tablecloth out from under a lavish dinner with distinguished guests. As he is lead to the chair crying and trembling, the attendant tells him to try and think about something else.
This opposition between the lacerating punishments and the profane joy that we exact on ourselves in our own minds is what the film is ultimately about. The ghosts of Lethe continually fail to meet each other, and themselves, with any realistic degree of kindness or compromise. None of them can live up to the expectations that they have constructed for each other, and none of them can understand why.
Along with the stillness, dollhouse staging and washed-out visuals that are Andersson’s trademark, the barman who calls last orders and that “Tomorrow is another day!” hints at purgatory—that these scenes will be played out forever as some sort of punishment. It is hard not to feel sorry for them. It is even harder not to laugh at them.