starstarstarstar-outline(3 stars)

Roy Andersson was a socially distant filmmaker before it was cool.

The Swedish writer-director has acquired a cult following for his formal exercises in deadpan cool. Filming at a somewhat remote middle distance, arranging his characters in enigmatic and absurdist human dioramas, Andersson may not buy into the auteur-as-God metaphor, but he observes his characters with a similar mix of compassion and bemusement.

About “About Endlessness”: What’s it about? That’s open to interpretation, as Andersson’s series of meticulously constructed but purposefully opaque vignettes unfolds. The film opens with an older couple sitting on a park bench, overlooking a gray-looking city, their backs to the viewer. After a prolonged silence, she notes that “it’s almost September.” “Mmmm,” he replies. And: Scene.

The rest of “About Endlessness” transpires in a similar tone. In static, squared-off shots, Andersson captures the human experience in varying degrees of despair, loneliness and futility. A female narrator intones one-line descriptions of what we’re seeing, like an angel a la “Wings of Desire.” The voice is dispassionate but benevolent, as she bears witness to people who have lost their way, lost their faith, lost all hope or lost the loves of their lives.

This makes “About Endlessness” sound depressing. It isn’t. Rather, it’s an intriguing addition to Andersson’s oeuvre, a carefully constructed — if also painfully self-conscious — box of everyday wonders, whose desaturated, beige-on-beige palette and surface banality conceal a wealth of feeling, an attraction to the numinous and a keen understanding of history and art (connoisseurs will recognize nods to Marc Chagall and the cartoonist collective Kukryniksy). Dreamlike and deliberate, pedestrian and theatrical, bland and strangely beautiful, “About Endlessness” takes in the suffering, struggle and moments of vagrant joy in life and propels them into the cosmos. We’re all earthbound and star stuff in Andersson’s hermetic but quirkily expansive worldview. Which might ultimately be what “About Endlessness” is about.

Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com and virtualavalon.org. Contains some violent images. In Swedish with subtitles. 76 minutes.