Songs from the Second Floor
- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jan
While you're in line for
The film deserves the praise. Andersson has higher intentions than mere crowd-pleasing—he's more a visual artist than a storyteller.
Andersson takes us on a tour of a troubled city in which men seek only fulfillment and financial success, leaning on their own understanding for support. Ignoring God, rejecting their wives, refusing to give or receive love, they become bitter, despondent, wrathful, even suicidal. Bizarre imagery underlines the fact that all of their hard work has come to nothing: a traffic jam, for example, winds endlessly through the town, barely budging. The motionless drivers get desperate; some exit their cars to search for sustenance in trash cans. In the midst of their folly, some recite comical revisions to Ecclesiastes as a mantra: "Beloved is the man who sits down. Beloved is the man who catches his finger in a door." Crucifixes are everywhere, suggesting a possible solution to their madness. But to these business-minded men, Jesus is just a commodity. A crucifix salesman throws away his existing stock, shouting, "How can you make money with a crucified loser?"
While our tour guide has an explosive sense of humor, I found the experience to be wearying and often quite unpleasant, mostly due to the moral vacuity of the film's many deranged characters. You could call it "the feel-bad movie of the year." But its imagery still haunts me, weeks after viewing it, and its illustrations of Scripture — intentional or otherwise—speak to the painful truths underlying Andersson's vision. Great art doesn't have to be "feel-great" art, after all. My full review is at Looking Closer.
J. Robert Parks (Phantom Tollbooth) is similarly impressed: "The film is gorgeously shot with spectacular widescreen compositions and moody lighting. And I loved the exploration of religious themes, tinged as they are with deep melancholy. Admittedly, this kind of thing isn't for everyone, but
Mainstream reviews range from expressions of admiring bewilderment to profound insight. Roger Ebert says, "I love this film because it is completely new, starting from a place no other film has started from, proceeding implacably to demonstrate the logic of its despair, arriving at a place of no hope.