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

Open access


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.

Arnheim, Rudolf. 1980 [1954]. Arte e Percepção Visual: Uma Psicologia da Visão Criadora [Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Art]. São Paulo [etc.]: Pioneira Thomson Learning.

Augé, Marc. 1995 [1992]. Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity. London and New York: Verso.

Aumont, Jacques. 2007. L’Œil interminable [The Endless Eye]. Paris: Éditions de la Différence.

Barthes, Roland. 1977 [1973]. Diderot, Brecht, Eisenstein. In Image, Music, Text, 69–78. New York: The Noonday Press.

Bazin, André. 1967. What Is Cinema? Berkeley [etc.]: University of California Press.

Bordwell, David. 1997. On the History of Film Style. Cambridge, MA and London, UK: Harvard University Press.

Brewster, Ben and Lea Jacobs. 1987. Theatre to Cinema: Stage Pictorialism and the Early Feature Film. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Dagliden, Jonna. Roy Andersson: ‘I’m Trying to Show What It’s Like to be Human.’ The Guardian, August 28, 2014. Last accessed 16. 09. 2017.

Faure, Élie. 2010 [1920]. De la cinéplastique. In Cinéma, cinéma, cinéma, 11–35. Houille: Éditions Manucius.

Fried, Michael. 1980. Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Girola, Fiammetta and Bruno Fornara, eds. 2003. Roy Andersson. Bergamo: Ventunesima Mostra Internazionale del Cinema d’Essai.

Gombrich, E. H. 1982. The Image and the Eye: Further Studies in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. New York: Phaidon Press.

Hanich, Julian. 2014. Complex Staging: The Hidden Dimension of Roy Andersson’s Aesthetics. Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism vol. 5: 37–49.

Larson, Mariah and Andres Marklund, eds. 2010. Swedish Film: An Introduction and Reader. Lund: Nordic Academic Press.

Lessing, Ephraim Gotthold. 1887 [1766]. Laocoon: An Essay Upon the Limits of Painting and Poetry: With Remarks Illustrative of Various Points in the History of Ancient Art. Boston: Roberts Brothers.

Lindqvist, Ursula. 2016. Roy Andersson’s Songs from the Second Floor: Contemplating the Art of Existence. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press.

Minissale, Gregory. 2009. Framing Consciousness in Art: Transcultural Perspectives. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi.

Ratner, Megan. 2015. The “Trivialist Cinema” of Roy Andersson: An Interview. Film Quarterly vol. 69, no. 1. Last accessed 16. 09. 2017.

Spigland, Ethan. 2010. No Shadows to Hide In: A Conversation with Roy Andersson. Last accessed 29. 05. 2018.

Tuan, Yi-Fu. 1977. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis and London: The University of Minnesota Press.

Vishnevestsky, Ignatiy. 2009. Figurative and Abstract: An Interview with Roy Andersson. Last accessed 16. 09. 2017.

Yang, Julianne Qiuling Ma. 2013. Towards a Cinema of Contemplation: Roy Andersson’s Aesthetics and Ethics. Last accessed 22. 02. 2017.

Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, Film and Media Studies

The Journal of "Sapientia" Hungarian University of Transylvania

Journal Information


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 93 93 37
PDF Downloads 57 57 15