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Songs from the Second Floor

4.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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(Mar 23, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

One evening somewhere in our hemisphere, a strange series of illogical events take place: a clerk is made redundant in a degrading manner; a lost immigrant is violently attacked in a busy street; a magician makes a terrible error in his act…sleep on this night does not come easily to the citizens of this town.

The following day, the signs of chaos are taking hold as the madness grips a board of directors and the city itself is strangled by a horrendous traffic jam. In the midst of this mayhem, one person stands out: Karl - covered in soot from the fire he had set to burn down his furniture store in order to get the insurance money.

While the new millennium is casting its web and creating a vast mental breakdown, Karl gradually becomes conscious of the absurdity of the world and realizes just how difficult it is to be human.


While it falls squarely into the precious category of love-it-or-leave-it art-house oddities, the hypnotically absurd Swedish comedy Songs from the Second Floor is certainly unlike any other movie you've ever seen. That alone is reason to check it out, and many pleasures await those who are receptive to director Roy Andersson's conspicuously offbeat worldview, presented here as a series of marginally connected vignettes illustrating a bleak world that has literally ground to a halt. A perpetual traffic jam lurches through an urban landscape imbued with post-apocalyptic atmosphere, a ghost town populated by pale, shell-shocked citizens bereft of hope and teetering on the edge of collective madness. Characters and plot are nonexistent in any conventional sense; it's as if Andersson has cast himself as a detached God, gazing upon these lost souls from a distant remove, as if they were fish in a tank, lumbering through their oppressive city like zombies at the dead-end of civilization. Described by critic J. Hoberman as "slapstick Ingmar Bergman," this highly unusual film is certainly not for everyone, but if you're on its wavelength it's sure to prove unforgettably amusing. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • Director's commentary
  • Work in progress
  • Behind the scenes
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailer

Product Details

  • Actors:  Stefan Larsson, Bengt C.W. Carlsson Lars Nordh
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Swedish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: New Yorker
  • DVD Release Date: March 23, 2004
  • Run Time: 98 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001AP0PE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,917 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Songs from the Second Floor" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
What is this film about ? It is about strange things happening in a strange city ? What is this absurd traffic that cars are stuck in for days, without moving even for a few feet ? Where is everybody going ? What went wront with the magicians act and almost killed the volunteer from the audience ?

In short what is Anderson trying to say ? A lot. And it is all an alegory about the human life. Trapped in convention, in relations, like being stuck in the traffic, working hard and as the hero says "try to put some food on the table, and enjoy oneself". It is also a criticism of the establishment and power. When people trust their lives in authority that is supposed to take care of them, like trusting that the magician will not cut you in half but will make the trick work, but things go wrong. Like when a mental patient is wearing the doctor's robe and nobody understands the difference.

The imagery of the film is stunning to say the least, the photography, the colors, the camera that never moves, the ever lasting deep focus that captures foreground and background and does not miss anything. Oh, this is a masterpiece. It reminded me of Tarkofski, although lighter and more approachable, and also Angelopoulos, although not so slow.

I would recomend this film to everyone. And if you are puzzled at the end about what it all means you will get a lot of answers on the special features section where you can see the entire film from the beginning with the director explaining his concept and answering questins about the technical aspects of the film and about its message.

One of the best films of the past 10 years I would say.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I first saw this film IIRC in 2001 at the Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival ("Ebertfest") in Champaign-Urbana. I instantly fell in love with the film -- it was clearly the best film at the festival. And then I waited for DVD release... and waited... and waited. Finally I received my copy, some 4+ years after the film was released.
Upon watching it again, I felt it lost something compared to the presentation on the massive screen and enthusiastic 800+ audience at the Virginia Theatre. The visuals are intentionally drab, but incredibly rich and detailed; hence, the small screen is not kind. Also, like much absurdist art, it is difficult to recapture the emotional shock and wonderment of the first viewing. But yet the movie is still compelling on DVD.
This Swedish comedy is dark, brooding, irreverent and often times disturbing. From the grey skies to the traffic-jammed streets to the predominantly obese and ashen-faced cast, this movie makes no attempt to be be pretty or cheery. However, certain scenes of despair are so full of beauty, one smiles despite oneself. I am reminded of certain scenes from the work of Terry Gilliam.
The plot is rather simple: things are not going well in this fictional Scandinavian city and the citizens are getting desperate. Don't ask why or where -- it's truly unimportant. Woven into this fabric is Caesar Vallejo's poem "Beloved be the man who sits down," the verses of which form a a type of modern beatitudes extolling the merits of the mundane individual. In the movie, the poem is written by the protaganist's son, who now resides in a mental hospital. Ironically, the people in the patients in the mental hospital appear to be the only sane residents in a city gone loopy as capitalism, government and religion fail its increasingly desperate and selfish citizens.
A great film to see, but really not for everyone.
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By Haseeb on December 12, 2004
Format: DVD
Songs From the Second Floor is the best film I've seen in a long time. The movie is unconventional in that it has no plot and is filled with a number of events that don't always follow one another.

I think the primary focus of the film however is on the man whose picture appears on the box cover. In the beginning of the film he burns down his furnature store in order to collect insurance money. He also has a son who drove himself crazy writing poetry. After he burned down his business, he trys to make a living selling crucifixes.

Along our journey in this film we see a number of people who are either in great dispair, suffering or are on the verge of a mental collapse. Along our journey in life, we experience pretty much what is shown in this film. I love this film because it vividly shows what life is like but at the same time it's very dream-like. What is life but one mishap or mistake after another?

The film is also very funny. The part in particular which made me laugh was when there was a scene when a man had just been apparently fired from his job then he clings on to his bosses leg like a kid repeating the same thing over and over again.
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Format: DVD
Let me begin by saying this is one of the most striking films I have managed to catch in a while and that, for that reason alone, film buffs will not want to miss it. It has an attention to detail that is rarely found, and makes repeated viewings worthwhile However, even for those who are not necessarily interested in "artsy" films, there are still good reasons to see this film.

One reviewer below notes that, having listened to the director's commentary about the symbolic meaning of much of what is going on in the film, that this reduces it to being "marginally interesting". There's a great deal of truth in this, and makes for an excellent reason not to listen to the director's commentary, especially as a creator's intentions may not always provide the best insight into a work. Sometimes a work can be greater, or the effect can be meaningful in ways that a director or writer may not realize. For example, there are a number of images in the film about the indifferent powers-that-be, who are so heartless at one point as to actually sacrifice a girl in a superstitious ritual to try to save their failing world; in another, at a business meeting, a gypsy fortune-teller passes around a crystal ball. To reduce this to merely a commentary on specific current Swedish social policies threatens to remove the relevance of the image for all of us in industrialized nations.

Whatever the case of this, the primary reason to see this movie is for its very striking images, and the specific content of each scene. In each (with one exception), the camera never moves; there are no cuts (except between scenes), no shifts of perspective. One watches each scene from a single point of view always.
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