- Någonting har hänt: Roy Anderssons filmskapande och det moderna Sverige by Daniel Brodén, and: Roy Andersson's Songs from the Second Floor: Contemplating the Art of Existence by Ursula Lindqvist
It is a happy coincidence that the first two academic monographs on Roy Andersson were published in the same year. Daniel Brodén's Någonting har hänt: Roy Anderssons filmskapande och det moderna Sverige (Something Has Happened: Roy Andersson's Filmmaking and the Modern Sweden) distinguishes itself by examining the entirety of Andersson's output from En kärlekshistoria (1974; A Swedish Love Story) to En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron (2014; A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence), including the advertisement films and Giliap (1975). Brodén's book relies primarily on sociocultural history and critical theory to illuminate the complex social critique that permeates Andersson's oeuvre. Ursula Lindqvist's Roy Andersson's Songs from the Second Floor: Contemplating the Art of Existence, on the other hand, is quite different, focusing on the one film while giving extensive space to Andersson's biographical, philosophical, and aesthetic production background. This relates to it being the sixth and final installment in the series Nordic Film Classics, whose goal is to elucidate the contexts and processes that went into the filmmaking. Simply put, the latter provides a deep transection, whereas the former attempts to synthetically capture Andersson's entire oeuvre in the context of its primary theme: the Swedish welfare state (folkhemmet). [End Page 127]
Brodén divides his book into eight chapters. The introductory chapter takes note of the gap between Andersson's professional status and his ambitions, mentioning the director's disappointment that his films haven't ignited a bigger debate about their imbued social criticism(s). As the title suggests, Brodén engages with Andersson's well-documented intentions, with the broader objective to discuss the films' stylistic and thematic aspects and their historical contexts, while emphasizing the cinematic medium's potential "att berika förståelsen av tillvaron" (p. 11) [to enrich the understanding of existence] and specifically how it can create "bortom verklighetsåtergivningens begränsningar" (p. 12) [beyond the limits of the representation of reality].
Brodén employs three main concepts throughout his book. In addition to alienation and förtingligande (reification)—in the usage extending from Marx through to Lukács and the Frankfurt School—Brodén coins the third term existentiell ohälsa (existential illness), which itself is grounded in the work of the medical humanities via Martha Nussbaum and Katharina Bernhardsson (pp. 23–7). Indeed, one of the book's most intriguing insights is the author's use of the (dis)connections between health, science, and literature (and film) and the latter's ability to mediate instincts in a potentially subversive way to undermine reductionist scientific understandings of the world (p. 23, referring to Nussbaum's Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life, Beacon Press, 1995). Further, Brodén notes that his analytical entry point connects to the resurgence of film philosophy that has challenged the established Anglo-American cinematic scholarly discourse (p. 29).
The introductory chapter is followed by two long contextualizing chapters. Chapter 2, "Folkhemsfilmare på tvärs med samtiden" (Folkhem-Filmmakers at Odds with the Present), historicizes Andersson's entire film career with Swedish and European film culture. Chapter 3, "Den komplexa bilden som optik" (The Complex Image as Optics), lays the philosophical and theoretical groundwork for the imminent analyses, which focus primarily on social and intellectual influences (see below). As Brodén mentions in the introduction, a reader with sufficient background in European film history and Swedish cultural history could skip both chapters. Though he claims that his book is also aimed at readers "utan filmvetenskaplig ämneskunskap" (p. 33) [without specialized knowledge in film studies], it is not overly generous. That said, the...