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  • The work of Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson is rich in the ways that so many other films aren't. Having already seen his most expansive picture, Songs from the Second Floor (2000) and the shorter work World of Glory (1991), I came to this with a greater notion of what to expect. Like World of Glory, we're dealing with a short work; clocking in roughly at a mere 24 minutes. However, unlike the largely self-financed films that would follow, here we have something much more interesting; a film that attempts to analyse the facts and fictions surrounding the discovery and eventual epidemic of the AIDS virus, funded by the Swedish Board of Health and Welfare to be distributed to schools, colleges and universities around the country.

    Before post-production was officially completed on the film, the board approached Andersson and instructed him to terminate the project, explaining that the ultimate message behind the film was too negative to work under the confines of which it would be shown. Thankfully, the film was eventually released and we can now see what Andersson had in mind... though it isn't hard to see why the board found this so problematic. Something Happened (1987) is - even in the short-form sense - one of the bleakest works of European cinema that I have ever seen. The usual Andersson trademarks are all here, albeit, on a much smaller scale. So we have the use of fixed camera perspectives, enormous depth of field and actors chosen for a unique, specific physical appearance, made up with white face paint. What makes the film so powerful though is the way that the director so freely draws upon his background in advertising commercials. Here we get some of the most depressing, ugly, disease ridden tableaux ever depicted on screen, but shot with all the sleek sheen and meticulous design of an IKEA commercial.

    This makes the film's ultimate impact all the more powerful. The images are so wracked with pain and suffering that we are woken up so fully to the devastating effects of this illness, that one simply cannot fault the educational value of it. This is a much more responsible way to inform people of the dangers of the disease than simply resorting to inoffensive slogans and hand-holding. Andersson's treatment of the subject is impassioned and the world that he creates is both fascinating and wholly terrifying. Here is a filmmaker we simply cannot ignore. For me, there is no one - to my mind at least - who is making this kind of cinema in this particular way. Having now seen three of his key projects I can see the formation of a new cinematic ideology. It will be interesting to see what this man does next.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a very interesting movie with great visuals just like all Roy Andersson movies and it holds a strange somewhat hidden agenda/message.

    This movie carries a very controversial message about the origin of AIDS which is most likely the reason why the the Swedish Board of Health and Welfare terminated the project. It seams that Roy Andersson doesn't believe in the the theory that the virus was transfered to humans from monkeys in the African jungles. It appears as if he is trying to tell us how the virus was produced in laboratories by US doctors and spread to humans in experiments. The movie parodies the doctors telling us about how the virus was spread by monkeys in Africa and then shows doctors injecting something that we can assume is the virus into people with dawns syndrome(iirc) while a black nurse waves a monkey in front of their eyes to calm them.

    The reason why I assume it's US doctors who are involved is the scene in the prison where doctors with US accent is asking for volunteers for experiments which involve AIDS.

    This movie is a must see and a real treat for both for eyes and mind.
  • This "unfinished" short about AIDS and it's effect on society represents Andersson's leap to his all out surreal style that has dominated his later work.

    Like his features "You, The Living" and "Songs From the Second Floor" this is alternately extremely funny, and deeply disturbing, often in rapid succession, or even simultaneously.

    The long, static shots, with a bleached out look are here, as are the strange, slightly stilted performances by actors wearing pale, ghost-like make up, along with his way of creating numerous individual vignettes around a theme that don't always tie together in an obvious way, but somehow come together to create a powerful emotional impact.

    This was supposed to be made for the Swedish Board of Health, but as the other reviewers have noted, it's not hard to see why they were scared off by this deeply sad and disquieting work, along with the implication – perhaps literal, but more likely a darkly satiric jab at the medical establishment and the United States, that the disease didn't come from monkeys, but was given deliberately to mentally handicapped people as an experiment.

    Perhaps not yet up to the full brilliance of his work to come, this shows Andersson as a completely unique voice – somehow both very experimental and yet accessible - in a world of cinema where unique voices are far to rare.

    This is now available to buy as part of the "5 X Andersson" DVD set, which contains his 5 major short films, (3 student, 2 professional) along with a full disc of his explanation of the how's and why's of the images in this film, and "World of Glory" his other professional short. The set is a must for any fan of Andersson's work.