A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence


A story centered on a pair of traveling salesmen who peddle novelty items.

What have I just watched? Surely it wasn’t the critically acclaimed Swedish film from Roy Andersson, the one that won the prestigious Silver Lion at Venice ahead of Oscar winner ‘Birdman’. Surely not? That film must have had some redeeming features to warrant such high praise and awards attention, no? Sadly it appears I did watch the correct film, and great title notwithstanding, it is comfortably one of the worst films I’ve seen in some time. The film is billed as a surreal black comedy that follows two traveling salesman trying to peddle joke gifts with a level of enthusiasm that would make Victor Meldrew look positively beaming, but it also features numerous unrelated vignettes that struggle to work in tandem with the primary plot (if one could call it that!).

It is rather unfortunate as the film’s first few sequences work well, particularly the trilogy of death which is deadpan, subtle and funny. The opening sequences also make use of some clever shots, mainly in the way Andersson’s camera focuses on the foreground of a scene whilst characters in the background bicker, make out or behave in ways that draw the audience’s gaze deeper into each scene. The film’s problem is that it never really goes anywhere beyond that, and the funny sequences make way for the bizarre, the repetitive and the downright boring. Films with separate strands can work extremely well (for an excellent example, see our film of the month for April, ‘Wild Tales’), but there needs to be something thematically connecting the individual pieces and I was grasping to find anything here.

What is the film about? I’ve read some other reviews to try to understand my complete disdain for the film – after all, everyone’s opinion differs but I failed to even comprehend how this could be construed as worthwhile, let alone a masterpiece? I’ve read that it’s putting across a view on capitalism, the economy and materialism, but to be honest it feels like they’re grasping for meaning in a film that is a pointless exercise in film school tedium. The film is repetitive to a fault, with the repeating scene with the salesman that barely raised a laugh the first time becoming increasingly exasperating throughout. By the time Charles XII appears in an apparently modern setting I’d completely lost interest.

This is comfortably the worst 2 hours I’ve spent in the cinema since ‘A Million Ways To Die In The West’. In that case, I pretty much knew to expect something terrible, whereas this film lures you in with a quirky opening and promising reviews, before making way to reveal a boring, unfunny waste of time. Life is too short to waste on films such as this.

Rating: 1/5

Directed By: Roy Andersson

Starring: Holger Andersson, Nils Westblom and Viktor Gyllenberg


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