A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence – Movie Review by Frnak L.
Directed by Roy Andersson
Writer: Roy Andersson
Stars: Holger Andersson, Nils Westblom, Viktor Gyllenberg
After Songs from the Second Floor (2000) and You, the Living (2007), Roy Andersson now offers what he calls “the final part of a trilogy about what it means to be a human being”. In order to create this insight, Andersson has amassed a series of beige/grey tableaux in which the characters move with deliberation. The camera does not move. The only movement comes from the actors. This creates a surreal quality as the cinema screen becomes a window through which the cinema goer is enabled to peep into this other world. He or she is therefore, in one sense, more close to the action than in an ordinary film but, in another sense, because he or she is a sort of Peeping Tom the world which is observed is out of reach, the viewer is far more remote. The sense of remoteness, or of being an outsider, is further intensified by many of the characters wearing a certain amount of white powder/grease paint. The overall effect is of an unfamiliar place but this is contradicted by the fact that most of the locations are uncommonly familiar in their mundanity and drabness.
The opening scene is of an elderly man observing, somewhat bemused, in a museum a strange prehistoric creature and then a stuffed pigeon. He then leaves the room to enter presumably another similar room but it is impossible to know as the camera is static. There then follows three short scenes which each deal with death. Each is comic; think Joe Orton. The third in particular is splendid black comedy.
There then follows the main theme a series of scenes in which a couple of travelling salesmen, who are the most unlikely pair of travelling salesmen ever devised seek, with appropriately battered leather suitcases, to flog novelty items such as vampires teeth to small-town shopkeepers! Their relationships with their customers and each other provide the grist for most of the tableaux but there are other scenes such as King Charles II of Sweden suitably attired in eighteenth century costume dropping onto into a beige-dull café for a glass of water. How this episode fits with the rest is not easy to discern nor is the scene of a huge copper cylinder, into which humans have entered and is then fumigated but it brings to mind human mass destruction of on an industrial scale. The dialogue is sparse and often deliberately repetitive. Indeed there is a telephone sequence which is played out in three different scenarios which begins “I am happy to hear you are doing fine”. But the conversation is the same each time. The other speaker is not identified but it forces reflection on the trivial content of many telephone conversations. Not to be overlooked is the splendid score which moves at just the correct pace for the various settings and given the beige/grey palette brings a certain depth of colour to each.
What this delightfully wacky film is about is for the viewer to decide. It is impossible to define but it makes captivating viewing.
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