Starring: Holger Andersson, Nils Westblom, Viktor Gyllenberg
Director: Roy Andersson
Running Time: 96 mins
A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence (En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron) is a Swedish film about two novelty items salesmen who find themselves caught up in a series of bizarre episodes that give them perspective on the human condition.
The Swedes have a notorious reputation for their black comedies. Made to look as bleak as possible, but containing a blend of bizarre slapstick, irony and extreme meta-humour, A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence clearly defines that reputation; sometimes for the better, and sometimes not so much.
First off, I’m not going to claim that I fully understood this film. Roy Andersson’s comments on the human condition often went way above my head, and given that I’m not from Scandinavia, where they just seem to be light years ahead in terms of philosophy and comedy of anyone else, I didn’t get some of the more complex jokes either.
However, for the most part, I did enjoy this film. I was bored out of my mind for the first twenty minutes, but that was simply because I wasn’t yet fully adjusted to the totally weird, slow and bleak vibe that defines this film, and if I went back now having seen the film, I would enjoy it a lot more.
The film plays out pretty much like a sketch show, with two main characters occasionally meandering into whatever’s going on, thereby stringing together a continuous and progressive narrative (although it is hard to find). Generally, that format works pretty well, and it adds even more to the weirdness of the whole film. Some scenes don’t land so well, but there are some, particularly in the middle third of the film, that really work, and had me laughing and smiling right the way through them, even if they were sometimes telling somewhat dour stories.
Finally, Roy Andersson’s directing is pretty good too. He doesn’t always manage to keep everything fully engaging, and I did get a little bored towards the tail end of the film, but when he’s really strutting his stuff by setting up these bizarre scenarios in such striking fashion, it makes for a brilliantly engrossing and memorable watch.
Overall, I liked this film. It’s a genre of comedy that’s far out of my comfort zone, but I was impressed by Roy Andersson’s ability to make a film that could have felt totally pretentious properly engaging and enjoyable for the majority of the duration, and that’s why A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence gets a 7.6 from me.