Five years after receiving the Golden Lion for A Pigeon sat on a Branch, Reflecting on Existence, Andersson is back in competition on the Venice laguna with a new hymn to the human being.

The film About Endlessness (Om det oändliga), consisting of 32 vignettes, capturing the beauty, frailty and cruelty of life, was shot almost entirely at Andersson’s Studio 24.

About Endlessness was produced by Sweden’s Roy Andersson Film Produktion (Pernilla Sandström, Johan Carlsson), Germany’s Essential Films (Philippe Bober), Norway’s 4 1⁄2 Fiksjon (Håkon Øverås), with support among others from Nordisk Film & TV Fond. The Coproduction Office handles world sales. The Swedish release via TriArt is set for November 15, 2019.

Last time you were in Venice, you won the coveted Golden Lion statuette. What memories do you have from that experience?
Roy Andersson: It’s hard to say, but getting so much attention from the media and the audience was absolutely memorable.

What was the starting point for About Endlessness? I believe the celebrated 1001 Arabian nights collection of tales, was a major source of inspiration. Why?
Sometimes it’s hard to explain where an idea comes from, it’s simply about gut feelings and here gut feelings have a very big importance. I was inspired by 1001 Arabian Nights, and Scheherazade who tells such a great story to the King that he doesn’t want her to stop. My idea was to make a movie that would be so good that people wouldn’t want it to stop.

For the first time you use a voice-over, a Scheherazade-inspired female narrator. Can you explain why you’ve introduced this element?
RA: I was inspired by Bob Dylan’s song ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’ which contains beautiful quotes such as ‘I met a young woman whose body was burning, I met one man who was wounded in love, I met another man who was wounded with hatred' etc. Then the French classic Hiroshima mon amour was another inspiration, with the memorable voice-over of Emmanuelle Riva.

Other art forms - fine arts, literature, music - form an integral part of your vision and cinematic art. Can you give a specific example of a scene that uses other references?
There is a scene called ‘Couple on the bench’ inspired by a painting. You can see cranes flying to Africa. The woman looks up and says: “Oh, it’s already September!” The sentence comes from Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya where Elena Andreyevna, speaking to Sonya, utters the same sentence: ‘It’s already September”, adding: “How will we last here through the winter?” I find it very moving. It reminds us of time passing and us, getting older. It’s a beautiful metaphor, full of poetry.

The film is a hymn to life, to the ‘endlessness’ signs of existence, and you’ve mentioned in a statement that the Greek myth of the horn of plenty was one of the starting points for the film…
Yes I love the image of a horn that would be endlessly full and the concept of new ideas coming out all the time.

Is art what protects you from seeing the ‘ugliness’ of human kind, in today’s world of intolerance and carelessness for our planet, and what helps you focus on the beauty in life?
In art, you have all sides of the human being. I don’t hesitate to show everything, even the cruel side. In the horn of plenty you have beauty and ugliness.

I believe Marc Chagall was another inspiration, and the image of a flying couple reminds us Chagall’s painting Over the Town, depicting the painter and his wife, flying above Vitebsk…What does the image symbolise?
RA: The couple is young, surely naive and innocent. They haven’t been hurt by life. They are beautiful, flying, looking at everything on the planet, embracing life.

How did you work with the actors-professional and non-professionals?
I like to mix professionals and non-professionals because I want to capture the nakedness of existence. That’s why I avoid doing scenes with shadows. There should be no possibility to hide. You are visible all the time. We have mostly new actors. In all my movies, I want to have new faces, a new atmosphere. It’s richer that way.

You’ve said this is perhaps the best of your six feature films…why do you have this feeling?
Perhaps because after so many years of filmmaking, I am more confident. I don’t stop filming before I have achieved the best I can do and captured something never seen before, some kind of perfection.

Is there one vignette in particular that is your favourite?
RA: Yes - the scene where you have a man and his daughter, walking in the rain, on their way to a birthday party. The father has to put down his umbrella to help his daughter tie her shoe. He gets wet, but he has to do that. I feel it’s a heartfelt and beautiful scene between a father and his daughter.

What is your simplest and best way to celebrate life?
RA: It’s a hard question to answer. When Albert Einstein was asked: “what is the meaning of being alive”: he would say: “what makes me happy is seeing the happiness in another human beings’ eyes”. I think it’s a beautiful answer.

What would you like people to feel after watching your film?
My favourite film ever is The Bicycle Thief. I could see it again and again and again. I would love to achieve this - make films that people feel absolutely necessary to watch again and again.

Technology has revolutionised the way films are watched. But your films are quintessentially for the silver screen. How do you feel about people watching your film on a tablet or a mobile?
Of course, the best is to show a film on a big screen. But sometimes, a smaller screen is enough. I’m not so fussy. Going back to The Bicycle Thief, I saw it for the first time at a youth centre when I was 13. The quality of the 16mm projector and sound were pretty awful, but I just loved it. Sometimes, even films viewed in poor condition can provide an exceptional experience.