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A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence [2014] is a black comedy from the Swedish director Roy Andersson. The film stars no-name amateur actors from Swedish theaters, and is the final installment in his the ‘living-trilogy’ that started nearly 13 years ago.

No-nonsense nihilistic comedy. If you’re into slapstick comedy, with running gags cheering you on, then please abstain from watching this feature. The film tries to cheer up the audience but fails to realize that not all of us are devout Nietzscheans. The humor is dubbed as dead-pan; where it doesn’t try to impress the viewer in any way, you just have to find a way to laugh at the misery of random Swedish folk.Surrealism/Absurdity. This film draws a fine line between surrealism and absurdity, but the director isn’t here to please the audience or his cast, so he ends up overlapping the two genres. In the sense, where an 18th-century king enters into a seemingly retro bar on his horse and orders his subjects to whip the man playing the arcade video game. Points to note: 18th-century king, riding on horses, whips, retro bar, arcade game. If this doesn’t trigger the Bunuel/Lynch in you, then turn the film off!

Non-linear plot. The film follows the life of numerous Swedish folk; the routine is to jump from apartments to restaurants without care for prolonging or exploring the characters’ stories. The film attempts to follow the lives of two salesmen, who are unable to muster even an ounce of charisma to sell their products (vampire teeth, NOW with extra-long fangs!). They are unsuccessful in everything that they do; whether it be cheering each other up, realizing that they’ve been fooled by following a nonexistent address or recollecting payments.

Dread, angst and pointlessness. The characters are aware that; their lives are inherently meaningless, hate is in the air and the audience is watching them. Occasionally one of the characters would turn towards the camera and explain themselves, mostly establishing the opinion that they’ve gone looney. One of the most wonderful sequences in the film is where a soldier on the phone is trying to make sense of reaching early at a rendezvous. While doing so he appears to have spoken for the ballerina and her male student in the distant restaurant, whom we can’t hear but who appear to be arguing over their affection, or lack thereof, for each other. The policeman speaks for the two silent lovers as they head towards their breakup, giving us a sense that the feeling of dread and angst is mutual.

Detachment. The characters have no sense of reality; they live meaningless lives, without empathy for their friends, wives, lab-monkeys, or sales partner. Andersson continues with his usual tradition of touching up his characters with white makeup, which makes them look pasty and moreso compliments the whole melancholic mood/setting. The bone-white makeup is a testament to the dull life of the characters, and Andersson asserts the claim that our lives could have been a lot worse than they actually appear to be, when compared to his characters who seem to be living just for the sake of it. Hence, the mundane life, with no sense of purpose, is the most pitiful existence indeed. You will laugh on occasions, but it will be the same as if your best mate whispered a joke in your ear at someone’s funeral, where you know the joke was funny but you’re trying to control your laughter as you’ll surely feel guilty afterward.


Absurd, morbid, yet hilarious at times.
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
4.5Overall Score
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