Being a Human Person


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Being A Human Person
"Solely as an exploration of craft, Scott's film offers plenty of interest but it quickly opens out into a more psychological study of the director."

We often talk about the craft of the filmmaker, but rarely is it more literal than when it comes to Roy Andersson. Virtually everything the Swedish director makes is shot on intricate sets that recreate the verisimilitude of everything from bedrooms to train journeys, within his Stockholm studio. The technique, along with the fact that his cast generally where ghostly pale make-up lends his films an extra edge of strangeness, with the end result at once picture perfect and slightly "off" at the same time.

The other thing that this set-up gives him, as this increasingly intimate documentary from British director Fred Scott shows, is complete control of everything from each blade of grass and plug socket to the ability to have his cast repeat scenes any number of times until they hit the exact note he wants. Solely as an exploration of craft, Scott's film offers plenty of interest but it quickly opens out into a more psychological study of the director as he shoots what, at the time, was intended to be his "last film". Amid all the activity of the stage hands working to recreate the devilish detail of About Endlessness, we increasingly see the more personal battle that Andersson is having with the bottle - a situation which, we learn, has existed in varying degrees for years, but which reaches something of a crisis point during the shooting of this film.

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It wasn't always like this, as Andersson says, in one of the many illuminating pieces of interview that are scattered through the film, when he started out he "wanted to be so sober". That his father had fought problems with drink cemented this attitude in the early part of his career, when we see him enjoying instant national celebrity with A Swedish Love Story, which led to him making his next, sprawling, film Giliap as "a sort of protest" and which, following a critical drubbing, led to a 25-year hiatus from feature filmmaking.

Fast-forward to the shooting of About Endlessness - a film "about anxiety, death and nostalgia" - and he's become a darling of the arthouse circuit with his "Living Trilogy" of Songs From The Second Floor, You, The Living and A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence. We see Andersson, now at 77, physically slowing up through the course of the film but his passion for his projects remains undimmed. He also proves an open interviewee, whether he's talking about his love of Goya or his potential stint in rehab. Scott includes enough background so that we can see where he has come from, although he wisely doesn't try to be exhaustive. It's an editorial choice that allows him to focus on the emotional drivers of the director, both as a young man and now, as he nears the opposite end of his life, with interviewees also including his daughter Sandra, who talks about the difficulties of having him for a dad.

Like Andersson, Scott has an eye for connection and detail, so that, watching this, it's evident that Andersson's life and emotions have been fully folded into his work - not least in the direct references to alcohol dependency - but we can also see the fierce charisma of a man whose love of his craft and of the people-watching that informs it is undimmed with the passing of the years.

Reviewed on: 05 Nov 2020
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Being a Human Person packshot
Documentary following the director as he shoots his "last" film.

Director: Fred Scott

Starring: Roy Andersson, Roy Andersson

Year: 2020

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, Sweden


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