Music Literature Film Index About

Songs from the Second Floor, Directed by Roy Andersson

Sånger från andra våningen, Filmmuseum Distributie, October 6, 2000 (Sweden)

Screenplay: Roy Andersson

Starring: Lars Nordh, Stefan Larsson, Bengt C.W. Carlsson Torbjörn Fahlström, and Sten Andersson

I am afraid. But I also know that the only way to face fear is head on, and so I keep the doctor’s appointment, staying true to my New Year’s resolution.

A beautiful song rises up from the depths of a cold concrete tube that cuts through the dirty gut of the city. As I descend the salted subway steps, the melody grows more familiar. When I arrive at the bottom, I spot the source: a weathered old man playing an equally beat-up guitar, but oh, how delicate, how magnificent the results. In front of him rests a fedora turned upside-down, collecting donations from the downtrodden passers-by. Hello darkness, my old friend. He is delivering an absolutely flawless version of The Sounds of Silence. I am transfixed as if I have been shot-up with anesthesia, but I quickly come to as a train screeches into the station and drowns out the sublimity. I enter the train so as not to be late for the aforementioned consultation.

We will discuss and schedule a colonoscopy that I know I should have done two years prior. Others have told me that the prep is the hardest part but I’m not so sure. In the event of the discovery of polyps, there will be an excruciating wait for biopsy results in which case I would surely side with Tom Petty. The waiting is the hardest part. My fate will be left to machines, the accuracy of instruments, and the competence of a medical team. After that, it very well may hang in the balance at some undisclosed laboratory in the hands of additional technicians. Not that I am complaining. I am, in effect, a lottery winner. I currently have a job and thus, I am afforded the ultimate payout: health insurance. I know of so many others on the other side of the coin.

Their numbers will soon grow. We are approaching April 1st, which is a fool’s day indeed as it resets the fiscal year for many a corporation. It is time to infuse life into sagging stock prices. The tried and true method of downsizing or outsourcing works wonders. As a result, dedicated and loyal employees will soon be shoved to the curb to fend for themselves in the wasteland of bureaucratic tar.

It is September again. Hope for a late season charge by the Cubs is squashed in a twinight doubleheader that ends in not one but two crushing late-inning defeats to the first place Cardinals. The gory aftermath is an 8-game bulge in the standings. This is too large a mountain to climb now, right? I look at my phone to check the start time of tomorrow’s series finale. I am happy to find out that it is a night game because that means I will get to see every last pitch. Indeed, it is never too late for hope.

That is, unless you are stuck behind the wheel of a car on Milwaukee Avenue in the heart of Bucktown at 5 P.M. on a Friday. Frustration only builds the closer I get to an escape. I see Damon Avenue tantalizing close up ahead, but “close” has surely never been a more relative term than when locked in such bumper-to-bumper hell. My car has been stalled next to Piece Pizza forever. It seems like the only movement is the cool sashay of trendy locales who unabashedly flaunt their possession of the ultimate insider scoop that says the only way to get around these parts is on foot. I wait for the light to change even though I am about to find out that green does not necessarily mean “go.” The Mini Cooper in front of me nudges forward a bit but cannot make it into the intersection for fear of getting stuck in limbo. All hope is lost when the Don’t Walk sign starts flashing blood red. A man in the Pathfinder behind me begins to beat on his horn. He has lost it. And just like that, I are reminded that no matter how bad things get, there is always always the possibility that bad can easily turn worse.

But the resolve is triumphant. It is a chorus sung by the weary, the afflicted, and the losers, but it is sung all the same. We are forever up to the challenge, ready to face-off with our demons. The resolve is in the endurance and the attraction of the human spirit to hope and fight for something more. Cars may only move forward an inch, but forward is not back. Road rage may rise, but it also dissolves. Minds may rot in the struggle, but the struggle is proof alone that we will never give up.

When a song plays from the depths of the rot, do not hesitate to drop a coin in the hat if the spirit so moves you, or better yet, do not be afraid or embarrassed to join right in. The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls.