Swedish auteur Roy Andersson returns with Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion victor, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. This tale cements the director's international acclaim and rounds off his trilogy of 'human being' films - which also contains Songs From the Second Floor, released 2000, and You, the Living, released in 2007.
The true quality of his latest film lies in the work of Istvan Borbas and Gergely Palos' cinematography; together with Andersson's slow-paced comedy they offer the audience an experience of zombified enchantment, at times it feels like they shot each scene within a Nordic wax museum. Interestingly, the sparse colour palette and subdued lighting creates an effective image of vapidity; something Andersson no doubt intended to marry with his quirky original narrative.
As far as storytelling goes, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch explores a variety of average human lives; two novelty item salesmen who seem to have only just caught onto the idea of plastic vampire teeth, a sea captain turned barber, and an elderly gentlemen who may have got both the date and time wrong for a lunch meeting (among others). This is Andersson's semi-slapstick depiction of modern life, something that will most likely divide mainstream audiences due to its dry characteristics.
A slight comparison to Wes Anderson stylistics cannot be swerved here; through appreciating the framing and musical tones throughout the film, even the script begins to appear this way - which works in favour of a commercial audience. Thanks to the incessantly triumphant strings of Andersson's musical choice, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch frequently forces you into cheerful acceleration, even when casually entwined with on-screen cardiac arrest and fatality. Rarely will you find a film so honest when concerning real life, yet this brilliant relevance could be received as boring by some viewers.
Sliced into numerous segments over a duration of 101 minutes, the film throws in a short opening chapter named Three Meetings with Death - the highlight of which captures a sibling squabble at the bedside of a dying elderly woman, who at all costs attempts to stop her son from taking her beloved jewellery bag. She firmly believes that this item will travel with her through to the afterlife. The director pulls out a sense of sheepishness from each of his actors, here the old bed-ridden mother fills the gaps with amusing squeals of noncompliance, with further characters offering a host of ghoulish voices and personas.
Acting as the sole writer of this project, Andersson is a unique European voice who clearly enjoys interrogating the realm of comedy-dramas. During the snippet of a dance class routine, he transforms this choreographed art into an entertaining piece of sexual tension, in which the curious instructor slowly moves her hands across the body of her leading male. Her expressions and shyness portrayed here reinforce the idea of Andersson's talent for reserved comedic anguish, and the film itself benefits from the unrecognisable actors, long takes and scattered dialogue.
In terms of Blu-ray and DVD supplements, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch doesn't particularly offer anything of interest, a scene selection menu literally being the most noteworthy. However, this is ironically understandable due to the film's focus on bland reality and hollow endeavours, although it would've been fascinating to hear at least a director's commentary on the disc. You could say this introverted product package was purpose built to tie in with the banal themes existing in the film, but for a mainstream market this will surely extinguish sales numbers and film fanatics' hopes.
Special Features: None
INFO: A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ROY ANDERSSON / STARRING: NILS WESTBLOM, HOLGER ANDERSSON / RELEASE DATE: JULY 13TH