The Burden: Swedish Fish Never Tasted so Good

How do you like your existentialism served? Perhaps as a song sung by a fish in a bathrobe sitting in a bleak, little hotel room? If that’s not your style you might like a monkey with a headset sitting in a call center, or a dog stocking shelves after hours at a grocery store. The Burden was created by Swedish filmmaker, Niki Lindroth von Bahr in 2017. Can you imagine a Roy Anderson film transformed into a stop motion musical sung to you by deadpan animals? There is something uncanny and poignant about substituting humans with little lifeless figures that only partially resemble us. They parody both themselves and us at the same time.

Personally my favorite are the fish. They are the most awkward of the lot because there is no good way to orient a fish for viewing. In order to look into their gaping, emotionless eye they need to be sideways. The overall effect is an awkward Picasso portrait with more pathos than anything Pablo ever managed. We are already hardwired toward anthropomorphism and so we easily slip into the lonely little spaces these animals inhabit and feel the fragility of the sad anthem of hope they sing.

I have an MFA in painting and I’m an art professor but I managed to convince the school to let me teach film.

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