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en_duva_satt_pa_en_gren_och_funderade_pa_tillvaron_ver4A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE

Written and Directed by Roy Andersson / Starring Holger Andersson and Nils Westblom

“I’m happy to hear you’re doing fine.”

Winner of the Golden Lion award at last year’s Venice Film Festival, A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE is a series of comedic vignettes that centre around two recurring characters. Jonathan (Holger Andersson) and Sam (Nils Westblom) are relatively unsuccessful novelty items salesmen whose lives are as beige as the colour palate of this film. Jonathan is sensitive and cries at the drop of a hat and Sam is meaner than a junkyard dog. Interspersed throughout their story are surreal, individual scenes of a cast of characters and situations so boldly off-beat and audacious that I genuinely could not wait to see what bizarre occurrence would be next – from an elderly gentleman dying of a heart attack while trying to open a bottle of wine for dinner or an ocean cruise-line captain forced to retire due to seasickness, to a flamenco dancer trying to rebuff the sexual advances from his touchy feely dance instructor or a 1943 musical scene where sailors and soldiers stand in line to make out with Limping Lotta, the proprietress of a local bar, to get free shots of booze. This movie is a dizzying array of strange and whimsical events.


At first, I feared writer/director Roy Andersson’s (SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR) cinematic approach was similar to those of Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki whose work leaves me cold. But I was quickly won over by the dry humour; bone dry; James Bond martini dry. The deadpan delivery and performance by every actor in A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE is original and refreshing. A recurring line throughout the movie has characters having a conversation on their cellphone that always end with “I’m happy to hear you’re doing fine”. Except the person having the conversation is not really doing fine – one is a business man in an elegantly furnished, wood panelled office holding onto a gun while another is a scientist ignoring a monkey that is reacting brutally to a series of electroshock treatments just a few feet away. The most extravagant sequence in this Swedish comedy has Jonathan and Sam entering a bar filled with blasé patrons, to ask for directions when a militia dressed in ancient uniforms enter, empty the bar of all women under the threat of decapitation by giant swords, to have King Charles XII (King of Sweden from 1697 to 1718) enter on horseback to quench his thirst while hundreds of soldiers and horses march in the background to fight a battle against the Russians. This skit (for lack of a better word) is unconventional to the max and filled to the brim with visual sight gags and observations. Then, in a chapter titled “Homo Sapiens”, the film turns startling and unsettling in images that evoke Nazi gas chambers.


A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE wears its art house cred confidently and fearlessly. Its deliberate pace and unique perspective is a welcome change in a summer filled with super heroes, road warriors and dinosaurs.

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