Roy Andersson’s Tableau Aesthetic: A Cinematic Social Space Between Painting and Theatre

  • 1 Lisbon Polytechnic Institute, Lisbon Theatre and Film School, Portugal


The article examines three films by Roy Andersson, Songs from the Second Floor (Sånger från andra våningen, 2000), You, the Living (Du levande, 2007), and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron, 2014). The Swedish director depicts the human condition afflicted by the loss of its humanity through a personal style that he calls “the complex image,” a tableau aesthetic that instigates social criticism, and is dependent upon long shots, immobility, unchanging shot scale, and layered compositions. The author establishes a connection between artistic and social space and scrutinizes the challenges that this “complexity” poses for the film viewer from an intermedial perspective in which cinema enters into a dialogue with two other art forms: painting and theatre. Four specific issues are discussed: (1) the intertwining of reality and artificiality as a “hyperreality;” (2) the visual compositions which are simultaneously self-contained and entirely open, highlighting a tension between volume and surface; (3) the opposition between stasis and movement, conveying a meaningful social contrast and the characters’ angst; (4) the pictoriality of the image.

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