The cinema design of You, the Living

It comes as no surprise that Swedish film director Roy Andersson spent 25 years directing TV commercials. You, the Living (2007), is comprised of 50 loosely connected short vignettes that could easily stand on their own.

The sets are living still-lifes, precisely choreographed and meticulously designed. At the bus stop, commuters  huddle gloomily in downpour, and cars slowly creep in city traffic as a lonely foghorn moans in the distance. Inside, the dull pastels are beautifully highlighted with a splash of orange hair, red cocktail, or shiny brass tuba. The characters are illuminated in “a light without mercy”, and we chuckle at the dark humor of our hero, “Mr. Nobody” in his natural, shadowless habitat. His truth is told in these rooms.

Shot in deep focus and wide angles, Andersson’s humans are composed neatly in a big world that leaves them vulnerable to their expectations, their dreams, and hope for satisfaction. Without any close ups, we can fully empathize with their confusion, irritation and loneliness.

This film held all sorts of associations for me: The plotless meanderings of Linklater’s Slacker, the quiet alienation in the paintings of Edward Hopper, Jacques Tati’s art direction and bumbling humor, and the deadpan comedy and minimalism of Jarmush’s Stranger than Paridise.

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