BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: a comedy of depression.

FOR A FILM that’s remarkably depressing, You, the Living is rather funny. A dark, colourless vision of modern life, its idiosyncratic touches mean the film never feels as alienating as its subject matter. With its rich, intricate shots and understated deadpan symbolism, the film manages to elevate its subject matter into a deeply moving howl. And while it’s a little too loose in terms of its narrative, there’s no denying its idiosyncratic touch is quite something.

The film barely maintains a narrative. Instead, the film throws together a whole collection of deadbeat characters, most of whom are unconnected with the rest and most of whom already look like walking cadavers. The characters fight little battles in their everyday lives (e.g. wanting a beer with dinner, trying to sell carpet, responding to being called a “hag”), and each finds that the disappointments of life seem too much to bear.

Shot on an intricately constructed set (which contributed to the film’s three year long shoot), and with a very rigorous camera (static cameras with little editing within scenes), the film looks and feels beautiful despite the overwhelming greyness. The lack of linearity or characters means the film is occasionally a bit hit-and-miss, as a number of the set-pieces don’t work as well as some of the best moments (the table cloth dream, the rock star dream, the barber scene). The dry, wry tone though allows for the suspension of disbelief, and Roy Andersson’s truly odd depiction of faces (that might sound unusual until you see the film) is compelling.

But there’s clearly an angry tone – houses fall apart, characters barely connect, the weather’s terrible, racism and sexism are commonplace – which clearly is a mirror on contemporary ennui. The film’s opening shot has a painting of Don Quixote in the corner – and the film concludes that the characters are like the famous deluded knight. But in a world of chaos, disorder and cruelty (not to mention an impending Dr. Strangelove-esque apocalypse), one’s dreams and fantasies, no matter the folly, are all that us the living can fall back on.