A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence – Film Review

Where do you begin dissecting the depressingly funny and philosophical movie A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence?

You could start by accepting that this movie will take you on a journey that is both dreamlike and nightmarish. Swedish director and writer Roy Andersson has created a film that digs right into the idea of human existence by reflecting on the somewhat taboo subject of death. To call this a black comedy is an understatement as its metaphors and inherent self-reflection make the morbid jokes hit home just that little bit more.

One scene shows a man lying on the ground in a cafeteria unconscious. Paramedics are unable to revive him and he is pronounced dead. The next order of business for the people gathered around him is who is going to get the meal that the now deceased man has already paid for. This scene and every other one is shot with no cuts and the camera never moves or turns away, which makes for a fidgety hell for the impatient. Picture a Wes Anderson movie with less Jason Schwartzman and more people having heart attacks on screen, but you know, in a funny way.

The movie plays out more like a sketch show than a solid narrative. Though after getting small glimpses at a very brief collective of characters we follow the story of two middle aged salesman who are depressed and frustrated with life. They speak in repetition and monotone while spruiking their novelty toys (vampire teeth, funny masks, etc). This contrast of having two pasty-faced downers trying to sell items that bring joy is what’s both hilarious and amazingly depressing about this movie. Some scenes are presented more like an absurd Monty Python sketch and the underlying meaning of what it is like to live and die gets lost among this craziness.

Andersson makes an interesting film out of A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, with it being like a joke with no real punch line. With the camera forever standing still and the arrangement of characters trading minimal dialogue that mostly consist of a running joke (you’ll just have to find out for yourself), Andersson gives a lot more to chew on than your average film. It’s just that it takes more time and work to get your teeth into what’s actually happening.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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