Roy Andersson • Director of About Endlessness
“My agenda is having the audience wishing the film would never end – I feel I’ve almost succeeded”
by Jan Lumholdt
- VENICE 2019: We sat down with Sweden’s Roy Andersson to discuss his latest musing on existence, About Endlessness, screening in competition
The 2014 Golden Lion winner is back at the Venice Film Festival with both big and small existential issues, as only Sweden’s Roy Andersson can depict them. Cineuropa sat down with “Venice’s favourite Protestant director” on the subject of his new outing, About Endlessness [+see also:
interview: Roy Andersson
Cineuropa: Do you ever envision yourself as a character in your own films?
Roy Andersson: I wish I could say yes, but no – it’s not my plan, at least. But I’ve met some of the people and situations that you see in the film. I see them in the streets and in restaurants, and then I reconstruct them in order to purify them, making them more abstract. That’s why I could never go out and shoot at the actual restaurant, because then it wouldn’t be as pure in style. This is chiefly why I remain in my studio and never shoot outdoors.
About Endlessness brings some of your classic tableaux scenes, depicting both big and small existential issues. In what way, if any, does it differ from your previous films?
It’s the first time in my entire filmography that I’ve used a voiceover narrator. I re-read One Thousand and One Nights, and I decided to bring in my own Scheherazade. My agenda is having the audience, just like the king in the story, wishing the film would never end – I feel I’ve almost succeeded. And then, as usual, you will meet my different human beings, all of them part of us, part of existence, for whom I hope to show respect and be true to. Sometimes it can be cruel, and often it’s very vulnerable, this life.
One of the stronger scenes shows a man who has committed filicide – he has killed his own daughter, probably due to an honour issue, and now he regrets it. The man has the daughter in his arms with the knife still in his hand, as two women, maybe the mother and a sister, look on. Their ethnicity looks Middle Eastern. It’s a disturbing scene.
It’s a scene I hesitated to make. I didn’t want to pick out a certain group in our society, but these honour killings usually take place within certain groups, so I shot the scene like this. And I did the scene to show the absurdity, including the two female onlookers and including the fact that the man immediately regrets his act. The image is closely inspired by a painting by Ilya Repin, Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on 16 November 1581. So it’s both historical and current.
From time to time, you also return to some dark recent history, not least Hitler, who makes a small appearance here. Interestingly, Swedish cinema hardly ever visits Wold War II these days, while the neighbours in Denmark, Finland and Norway make many films on the theme, and very successfully at that. Why do you think that is?
The reasons might be that it’s expensive and hard work, and possibly also due to a lack of talent… It’s true and sad. And those we’ve done in the past are usually just nostalgic and sentimental.
You have, for quite some time, talked about adapting Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s war tale Journey to the End of the Night into a film. May we still look forward to this?
I think I’m too old now. But I’ve been very fascinated by it, and I also managed to get the rights to the book. In order to finance it, it would have needed to be made in English, and I always wanted to make it in the original French. When this didn’t work out, I abandoned it.
Did the Golden Lion for A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence [+see also:
interview: Roy Andersson
film profile] change anything for you, as far as freedom and financing are concerned?
A little. I had been quite well covered already before that, in terms of being able to make the films I make. But maybe the financing has been a bit easier since then, yes.
At the press screening, a couple of Italian critics jokingly referred to you as “possibly Venice’s favourite Protestant director”. How do you react to this praise?
With some amusement. While I respect religion, I’m not particularly religious myself - not at all, really. I did go to communion, but mainly to get a nice new suit.
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