Many characters portray the many absurdities and ridiculous struggles of every day normal life. At the center of all this, we follow a pair of door-to-door sales men who sell funny prank and party items. Of course, they are far from the jolliest bunch of lads themselves to begin with.
While Swedish born film maker Roy Andersson‘s filmography isn’t the most prolific you’ll ever encounter, he has been consistently making shorts, feature length films and documentaries since the late sixties and by now his body of work is renowned and critically acclaimed. I must admit, however, that ‘A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence’ is my first encounter with his work. Andersson presents us a vignette-liked structured film that will have you giggle on many occasions but eventually does outstay its welcome. Only a bit, I’ll safely add.
Just so you know, this film is not about a pigeon. We do get to see one or two, but they’re not sitting on a branch for 90 minutes. So you can relax, Andersson‘s aim is not to make you doze off with watching pigeons stare profoundly while sitting on a tree. Every scene consists of one perfectly framed shot in which all the action takes place. The only cut you’ll see, is the one taking you to the next scene. In a sense as if you were looking at a moving photograph, staged like a Edward Hopper painting, if you will. Andersson only breaks with this approach once, in a dream-like segment near the end involving African slaves and a giant copper instrument (the scene consists of two different fix camera set-ups). All scenes feel like sketches, in a very similar way you might see them on a TV show. It goes on from one gag to the next with some characters, locations and punch lines returning. Sometimes to great humorous effect, sometimes the repetition makes things stall a bit.
In its entirety, ‘A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence’ is a fine take on the absurdity of life (and death) in an anecdotic format, enhancing the most mundane matters to almost surreal levels. Another film came to mind after watching ‘A Pigeon’, namely the Estonian ‘Letters To Angel’ (2011) by Sulev Keedus. The latter also has certain straight-faced scenes reflecting on the absurdities of life, though Keedus‘ film does have an actual story to tell. Needless to say that if you’re devoid of any sense of humor, ‘A Pigeon’ will misfire completely and you’ll probably hate it. Then again, the film requires the viewer to appreciate a specific form of humor as well, so there’s no guarantee that yours will be in sync with the kind that Andersson is playing out here. To some, all this will be hilarious. Yet you’ll not be screaming with laughter. To others, this might all be boring. Yet the ‘when and how will this end’ notion will very likely make them sit through it nonetheless.
It might have you laugh with the notion that Swedish people just aren’t the happiest bunch on the planet, though. As the film progressed, the Swedish band Quit Your Dayjob came to mind with this particular song. Me saying this, has really nothing to do with anything. Pretty much just like this film has very little to do with anything. Except for underlining the senselessness of it all. A point I just tried to make as well by sharing a pointless music video in this review: both this video and this film are fun time-wasters. Not much else to it, really.
Trailer on YouTube.