Later described by the Village Voice as a "slapstick Ingmar Bergman”, Roy Andersson was born in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1943. A year after graduating from the Swedish Film Institute in 1969, he directed his first feature-length film, A Swedish Love Story. The film, awarded four prizes the same year at the 20th Berlin International Film Festival, looked at the nature and nuance of young love and turned out to be a major critical and popular success for Andersson. Following this success, Andersson fell into a depression. As he didn't want to get stuck with the same style and expectations he cancelled what was going to be his next project, with the script half-way finished, and skipped a couple of other ideas for plots he had previously planned to realize. Eventually he directed the film Giliap which was released in 1975. The film was a financial and critical disaster, went wildly over budget, and suffered lengthy delays in post-production. Giliap went in a decidedly different direction than A Swedish Love Story – replacing crowd-pleasing joy and soft humour with dark comedy and unforgiving deadpan. After Giliap, Andersson took a 25-year break from film directing, focusing his efforts mainly on his commercial work.
In 1981 he established Studio 24, an independent film company and studio located in central Stockholm. Later, he directed a short-film commissioned by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare entitled Something Happened. Made in 1987, the short was meant to be played at schools all over Sweden as an educational film about AIDS, but was canceled when it was three-fourths complete because of its overly dark nature and controversial use of sources. The official explanation was that it was "too dark in its message," and it wasn't officially shown until 1993. His next short film, 1991's World of Glory, developed this style even further and was a critical success, winning both the Canal Plus Award and the prestigious Press Prize at the 1992 Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival. The film is on a top ten list of all time best short films, set by the Clermont-Ferrand festival.
In March 1996, Andersson began filming Songs from the Second Floor, a film that was completed four years later in May 2000. After its premiere at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival the film also became an international critical success. It won the Jury Prize in Cannes and five Guldbagge Awards in Sweden for best film, direction, cinematography, screenplay and sound. The film was made up of forty-six long tableaux shots, marrying tough, bleak social criticism with his characteristic absurdist dead-pan and surrealism.
He has expressed his desire to make a new film that could be considered the third part in a trilogy together with his two latest films. The status of the project is unknown, but Andersson has publicly stated that he is planning "a third enormous, deep and fantastic, humorous and tragic, philosophical, Dostoyevsky film." In an interview with Ignatiy Vishnevetsky for The Auteurs' Notebook, Andersson revealed that he would be shooting his next film in High-definition video, possibly using the Red One camera, and that it would represent a departure in style from his previous two films. The film's preliminary title is A Dove Sitting on a Branch Reflecting on Existence.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York City presented a retrospective of Andersson's work in September 2009.