A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Autumn 2015 wWednesday series
Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 7:00pm
Directed by Roy Andersson
Screenplay by Roy Andersson
Starring Holger Andersson, Nils Westblom, and Viktor Gyllenberg
Rated NR ·
Sweden / Germany / Norway / France
Swedish and English /w suntitles
Swedish master Roy Andersson (Songs from the Second Floor) returns with this absurdist, surrealistic and shocking pitch-black comedy, which moves freely from nightmare to fantasy to hilariously deadpan humour as it muses on man’s perpetual inhumanity to man.
The most distinctive Swedish filmmaker since Ingmar Bergman, Roy Andersson has influenced the work of filmmakers as different as Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure) and Finland’s Dome Karukoski (The Grump). Andersson’s new film, the third part of a trilogy that began with Songs from the Second Floor and continued with You, the Living, demonstrates exactly why his influence is so powerful and pervasive. Filmmakers a quarter his age would not venture the risks he takes here, and his skill and craft rival those of the great masters.
A mixture of absurdist, hilariously deadpan humour, shock, and utter horror. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence presents a series of darkly comic vignettes organized around two narrative strands. In one, two hapless novelty salesmen wander around town trying to sell their inventory of vampire fangs and rubber masks, all the while bickering like an old married couple; in the other, Charles XII, Sweden’s most bellicose king, reappears in modern times to carry on his series of disastrous defeats. Shifting between nightmare, fantasy, reverie, and even an impromptu musical number, the film culminates with a blistering indictment of what Andersson presents as humanity’s stunning lack of empathy.
Though he has been called a slapstick Bergman and compared to Fellini, Andersson is closest to Luis Buñuel in both his surrealist flourishes and the rage—as well as the genuine empathy and sorrow—that underlies his twisted humour. Andersson has said that A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence was heavily influenced by Dostoevsky and, like the work of the Russian master, his film is not for the faint of heart. It is an extremely provocative and very disturbing critique of our times.
“What a bold, beguiling and utterly unclassifiable director Andersson is. He thinks life is a comedy and feels it’s a tragedy, and is able to wrestle these conflicting impulses into a gorgeous, deadpan deadlock.” (Xan Brooks, The Guardian)
“As with every beautiful, unearthly segment of Pigeon, the only certainty is life’s endlessly puzzling nature.” (Eric Kohn, indieWIRE)
“Pigeon is a near-perfect cap to a near-perfect trilogy, a cavalcade of oddness, humor, banality and even horror.” (Jessica Kiang, The Playlist)