Being a Human Person review: A personal portrait of a complicated director
The genius at work8
Mike Williams | On 19, Oct 2020
Director: Fred Scott
Cast: Roy Andersson
Watch Being a Human Person online in the: Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
Depending on how familiar you are with Swedish auteur Roy Andersson will determine how immediately you connect with the eccentric auteur. But when it comes to this documentary, it matters little: by the end you’ll be filled with an oddly quaint sense of nostalgia.
Maybe it’s the emotive and soothing orchestral score throughout the starkly juxtaposed documentation of his career and life. Or maybe it’s just the ageing director’s obsessive passion that beams through: either way you’ll become hooked, and even feel somewhat sombre when the credits roll. But you won’t fully be able to explain why.
That’s largely because Roy Andersson is a complex man. A whirlwind of anger, warmth, reflection and isolation break down unpredictable segments of this documentary, which struggles to hold on to its intent of following the production of Andersson’s most recent work, About Endlessness. Yet pleasingly, the film veers off into his past and raw pockets of his personal life. Audiences are quickly exposed to his imperfections, his demons, but most significantly his vulnerabilities, which amount to his greatest truths.
While unknown in the way that Hollywood heavyweights are, Andersson is not short of admirers, thanks to his meticulous passion and skill behind the camera. He is renowned for creating his scenes all within the confines of his single movie studio, whether it’s to film the interior of a bedroom, a visibly snowy night inside a pub or the exterior of a train station platform. His attention to detail and composition of each shot are nothing short of extraordinary.
Andersson’s poignant commentary on life is something of a reflection of his own. Synonymous with lingering, static shots engulfed by silence, it reflects his real-life interactions – sharing a comment or scrapping together some semblance of a two-way conversation. As we learn more about his own struggles with alcoholism and the compulsions of his work, we begin to chip away at the surface of a layered individual who could never be fully explored by any documentary. The film does, however, encourage those less well versed in his career and life to seek out his features, in the hope of learning more about his quirky and clever mind.
Indeed, it’s these productive and destructive compulsions that see him continue to fulfil a need as a filmmaker, as well as focus unhealthily on said medium, which, in turn, triggers health concerns and issues of addiction.
Anxiety, death, and nostalgia are what encompass his About Endlessness, as he and his crew struggle to stick to schedule and finish on time. The film, devoid of his often humanistic, reflective humour, is again more to do with where he is in his own life than anything else.
Being a Human Person is a deeply personal and intimate look at a complicated and captivating director. It’ll be particularly interesting if you admire his filmmaking process and embrace the eccentricity and intensity of a man even those closest to him can’t quite figure out. It’s a foreboding and, at times, grim look at the existence of a melancholic man. A relentlessly talented man. A man who can’t give in. And a man consumed by a compulsive passion he simply refuses to give up.