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

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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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