A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Directed by Roy Andersson
Starring Holger Andersson, Nisse Vestblom, Viktor Gyllenberg, Lotti Törnros and Jonas Gerholm
An 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.
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★★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd
is it wednesday, already?
★★★★★ review by Josiah Morgan on Letterboxd
NZIFF 2015 - Film #1/6
I can't write about this. A bunch of sad people on screen who know a lot of happier people (not on screen). See it with an audience, in a cinema, it helps. Funny and laughable - until all of a sudden in a genius centrepiece sequence involving many many horses - it's just not. It becomes devastating.
And then, it's Wednesday again.
★★★★ review by Steven Sheehan on Letterboxd
Although probably only for a few seconds because the little buggers are always on the prowl for food. So what was it thinking of? Again, it was most likely sustenance as its whirlwind metabolism squeezes out the last morsel of energy from its last find. Perched on a branch reflecting on what comes next, how to get there and just how much bloody effort this daily routine takes.
Roy Andersson's last film in his 'human' trilogy doesn't budge an inch in tone from the previous efforts, once again reminding us of how exasperating this whole life thing can be as the months and years tick by. Humour doesn't get much dryer than being delivered in such crushed powder form; staring down the barrel of God's loaded gun, asking for salvation before ducking the lead-driven laughter fired back across our whimpering heads.
Just as we in life sometimes wait in hope for an answer or a some sort of sense of direction, Andersson vaguely pulls together a series of thinly connected characters and moments that point toward the absurd channel of hopes, dreams and defeats we defiantly tap into everyday, no matter how deep an imprint was left on our faces last time round. This is joyous miserablism, reminiscent of Wes Anderson's worlds, drained of vibrancy and coated in the blackest of all humour.
The setting appears to be modern day Gothenburg, although the meticulous, museum like structure of each of the 37 vignettes remain frozen in time. Two travelling salesman, faces daubed in white powder to accentuate their awkward shape and emotionally drained personas, mostly remain the focus as they travel through this other world in search of a shop named Party. Unpacking their cutting-edge practical joke paraphernalia; vampire fangs, a laughing bag and an Uncle One-tooth horror mask, this out of luck couple insist they want to offer fun to the world without ever cracking a smile, let alone a sale.
King Charles' hundred thousand strong army go marching into battle in the background as the king and his aides storm into a local cafe on horseback. Sadly, the toilet is occupied so he has to wait. A regular at a local bar for 60 years recalls a war-time musical moment. Struggling to open a bottle of wine, a portly looking husband clutches his chest and keels over. Slaves are whipped and forced into a giant, horned drum by soldiers, a fire raging underneath that cooks women and children alive (apparently referencing the toxic acts of mining company Boliden). And so it goes on. Moments of life randomly thrown together, each one shot with precise, morbid fascination.
It is hard to imagine the films audience doubling over in laughter as Andersson work raises more smirks, chuckles and ongoing bemusement. Does it make narrative sense? That all depends on what you see in the glimpses of surreal mundanity statically placed in front of our eyes. You find whatever you need to, then you raise your legs on that branch and fly away onto the next one.
★★★★ review by josh lewis on Letterboxd
[cue existential crisis]
★★★★ review by Jacob on Letterboxd
"What do we do with this now?"
I have... so many questions, and the pacing of this was kind of excruciating at times, but it did fascinate me. I've never seen actors so intentionally and artfully blocked. Minimalist backdrops make up each shot, but everything we do see serves a purpose. Through a series of thematically-related vignettes, Roy Andersson explores the concepts of existence and humanity in a bizarre way, but it certainly says something. Do I know what that something was? Not at all. But I felt something, and I think it was a good kind of something. Who knew a film could be so boring yet wild?
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