Friday, October 30, 2020

Being a Human Person / Om att vara människa

Fred Scott: Being a Human Person / Om att vara människa (GB/SE 2020), a documentary portrait of Roy Andersson, on the making of Om det oändliga / About Endlessness (2019).

Fred Scott: Being a Human Person / Om att vara människa (GB/SE 2020). Roy Andersson visits the room of the Pinturas negras / The Black Paintings at Museo del Prado, Madrid, 2018. The pictures were originally painted as murals in Goya's Quinta del Sordo house. Later the murals were hacked off the walls and attached to canvas. Photo: Cinema Mondo.

Francisco Goya (1746–1828): El aquelarre o El gran Cabrón / Reunión de brujas / Escena sabática / Witches' Sabbath (The Great He-Goat). 1823. Part of the "Black Paintings" series, the painting depicts a coven of witches. Óleo sobre revoco, trasladado a lienzo / Oil on plaster wall, transferred to canvas. 140.5 x 435.7 cm. In the process of hanging this copy on canvas, the painting was cropped. Museo del Prado. Madrid. From: Wikimedia Commons. Please click to open on the largest screen.

Jacques Callot : La Pendaison / The Hanging, gravure n° 11 in Les misères et les malheurs de la guerre. 1633. Eaux-forte / etching. 8.3 cm × 18 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Wikipedia: "The series, published in 1633, is Callot's best-known work and has been called the first 'anti-war statement' in European art. It can be considered as an early prototypical French comic strip, within the text comics genre, since the illustrations are accompanied by a descriptive text beneath the images". Strange fruit. From: Wikimedia Commons. Please click to open on the largest screen.

Roy Andersson: ihmisenä olemisesta.
    GB/SE © 2020 Human Person Ltd. PC: Archer's Mark. P: Mike Brett, Steve Jamison, Jo-Jo Ellison.
    D: Fred Scott. Cin: Fred Scott, Christopher Sabogal – original format: digital: RED 6K 9 – 16:9. Colourist: Vic Parker. PD: Anna Rhodes. Miniature designer: Anders Hellström. M: Roger Goula, Lindsay Wright. S: Paul Darling. ED: Michael Aaglund.
    A documentary on the making of Om det oändliga / About Endlessness (2019). Featuring: Roy Andersson in newly filmed footage, vintage flashbacks and childhood home movies. Plus cast and crew in the making of.
    Soundtrack selections include:
– Henrik Skram: "Bellini del A Vo1", with clarinet (theme tune)
– Benny Andersson: "Kärlekens tid", perf. Benny Andersson & Helen Sjöholm (BAO!).
– Benny Andersson: "Sång från andra våningen"
– Benny Andersson: "Du levande"
– Eastern Orthodox Easter Liturgy: "Аллилуиа, Се Жених грядет" / "Alleluia, Behold the Bridegroom", perf. St. Petersburg Chamber Choir, Nikolai Korniev / on the record "Russian Easter" (1997)
Bengt Henrik Alstermarck: "Lilla vakre Anna" / "Lilla vackra Anna" (1862), perf. Alf Prøysen (Norman Record, Norske slagere kapitel 1 – 1955)
    Languages: Swedish and English
    92 min
    British premiere: 16 Oct 2020.
    Finnish premiere: 30 Oct 2020, distributor: Cinema Mondo, with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Anitra Paukkula / Sophia Beckman.
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 4, Helsinki 30 Oct 2020.

AA: Fred Scott's Being a Human Person is a "making of" about the movie About Endlessness and a documentary portrait of its director Roy Andersson.

Both phenomena are booming. The "making of" has grown into a huge trend during the home video era. Documentary portraits of film-makers are enjoying a mature phase of acknowledging "warts and all" but with a firm focus on achievement instead of sensation.

In both aspects Being a Human Person excels. As usual, About Endlessness was a multi-year project, realized in Roy Andersson's home studio, and Fred Scott and his team documented the whole process: building and demolishing the sets for each vignette, creating miniatures, and paying attention to recurrent details such as sockets and radiator pipes. Everything is meticulously storyboarded, and the trompe-l'œil images are impeccably crafted.

The film's commentary and press kit emphasize the uniqueness of Andersson's home studio mode of production. That is not completely accurate. Already the cinema's first conscious artist of fiction film, Georges Méliès, built a private studio. His famous establishment in Montreuil, built in 1897, was the first film studio in France. Roy Andersson's aesthetics has even many points in common with the early cinema approach of Méliès. Of later colleagues let's remember the Coppola family's Zoetrope studio, founded in 1969 and still going strong.

Roy Andersson is an aficionado of the arts of painting, graphic arts and photography, and in his mode of production there are also affinities with the artisanal bottega tradition of great painters such as Leonardo, Michelangelo and Tintoretto... and even Andy Warhol's The Factory.

For those who are fascinated by Roy Andersson's love of art, the high point of the movie is his visit to Madrid: after Cine Doré his main destination is Museo del Prado and the room dedicated to Goya's Pinturas negras / Black Paintings (see photos above).

Although Andersson has not experienced war personally, a profound sense of guilt and shame haunts him because of what happened in World War II. He quotes Martin Buber that what happened was a crime against the human order. Andersson finds soul brothers in Jacques Callot (see above) and Francisco Goya, creators of the earliest classic anti-war images.

Gradually we move deeper into Andersson's private family history. His colleagues find his movies "extremely autobiographical". Like his father, Andersson has a drinking problem. During production, he commits to rehabilitation but can endure it only for three weeks. Yet he comes back a changed man, drinking less but constantly irritated. Drinking has become a part of his creative process.

During the movie, Fred Scott, Roy Andersson and his team philosophize about the maestro's mission, his credo.

His strength is his sensitivity. His movies are about vulnerability and self-confidence, about people who are a little lost, people who have not been very successful in life, finding themselves in situations that take place in a zone between ridiculousness and dignity. "Art is there to defend the human being".

"There is no escape in work, no escape in yourself". Ars longa, vita brevis.




There are some filmmakers whose style is so unique, they can announce themselves in a scene. Lynch, Spielberg, Welles, Malick. They have such intense and personal vision, such specificity of time, place and cultural context – that we only need to spend a minute in their world to recognise their signature. And then there is Roy Andersson. A director who possesses a style of visual storytelling that allows his work to be known in a single frame. Because Roy – in a world where the hyperbolic use of such a phrase is all too commonplace – is truly one of a kind, for many reasons.”

”Each of his films takes an average of five years to make. His crew builds every set; films it; and then destroys it. He uses only fixed, long shots with no close-ups or edits. Each film is made up of an average of 40 intricate, painterly tableaux. He only casts non-professional actors. Roy’s intricate in-camera trickery employs surgical craftsmanship that is meticulous to the point of madness... And all of this takes place on the two floors below Roy’s apartment in an unassuming townhouse in central Stockholm – also known as the legendary Studio 24.

”In short, Roy’s way is the antithesis of every film production of the last 50 years. It has won him garlands at the biggest festivals in the world – Cannes, Berlin, Venice – and the adulation of visionary directors like Darren Aronofsky and Alejandro G. Iñárritu.”

”In an age of the franchise, and a proliferation of cookie-cutter storytelling, Roy is quite simply the last of his kind. And now, at 76 years of age, he is about to present his last film to the world. That film – About Endlessness – will mark the end of a major chapter in cinema. For when Roy stops making films, they will simply never be made in this way again.”

”Set across a three year time period, Being A Human Person charts the arduous and unsettled arc of production of what Roy lovingly terms his “final effort”. Shot through with Roy’s candour, humour and insistence on capturing the process in all its truthfulness – even as he comes to terms with his own, increasingly fragile, mortality – it also becomes a meditation on the legacy of a master storyteller as he calls time on his career.

Director’s Statement – Fred Scott

My vision for Being A Human Person has been to create a sensitive and inspiring character study of a man whom I regard as the greatest under-appreciated filmmaker in the world today.”

”As an artist so focused on the fragility, vulnerability and existential struggle of others, my film frames Roy's experience at the centre of a personal and creative struggle that will define his legacy as both an artist and a man.”

”The film’s voice is rooted in a philosophical rather than prosaic approach. It’s about themes and changes, rather than a didactic documenting of a process. The making of About Endlessness is simply the canvas upon which we colour-in the passage of time. Our focus instead is on the journey of creativity, and the gradual acceptance of one’s own limitations and mortality. This is one of the great common denominators that links us all. In this sense there’s an operatic feel to the way we present this story – a corkscrew of human narratives that celebrate the fundamental questions of life and existence.”

”Roy’s scenes, much like those of one of his major influences, Edward Hopper, are guided by an interest in what is happening between moments, or just out of view. Both artists give us moments that occur in the aftermath, or lead-up to a significant moment. The result is a set of deeply personal happenings, that invite the audience to interpret them on their own terms, and unlock the truth behind Roy’s sophisticated aesthetics. Being A Human Person is guided by this notion.”

”I am certain that in the years to come, anyone with a passing interest in film, will want to know: Who was this person, who made films entirely on their own terms? Who was this person who developed such a totally unique film language? Who was this person who magically created these remarkable, expansive worlds from behind the facade of a single building in central Stockholm. A building that itself represents Roy’s entire existence – both his world and his imagination, in a cross-section of his life and work; with his studio on the ground floor, office on the floor above, and home above that.”

”Roy is an intensely humanistic film maker, whose anger is triggered by indifference to the suffering of others. He gives us the gradual and the epic. The bleak and the beautiful. The everyday and the absurd. The sacred and the profane. Roy has said that his films are about what it’s like to be a human being. A lofty ambition of course, but one I believe he achieves with the same success as the master painters from whom he borrowed his paint. It is likewise a goal I hope I have succeeded in emulating through this documentary about Roy's life and work.

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