Swedishcomedy "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting On Existence" has a veryparticular style of deadpan humor and an equally specific morbid sense ofempathy. As in his previous two films, writer/director Roy Andersson("Songs from the Second Floor," "You, The Living") presentsseveral thematically-united sketches of life as it"s experienced by the meek,and the suffering, two groups of people who are (according to lớn Andersson’s films) doomed toinherit nothing. "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence"is, in that sense, a kind of alarmist comedy. It’s a series of comedic sketches aboutpeople who are too self-involved to lớn empathize with each other. It’s also aplaintively blunt wake-up call, & an effective demand for viewers" vigilantsensitivity.

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I"mwriting this đánh giá as a series of direct free-associations because that"sessentially how "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting On Existence"presents itself. Like Andersson"s other recent films, "Pigeon" is amovie that"s so viscerally effective that it doesn"t really matter how hardindividual scenes clobber you over the head with Andersson’s humanist message:by choosing to isolate ourselves from each other, we die a thousand littleabsurd deaths every day without ever really moving on.

“A Pigeon Sat On aBranch Reflecting on Existence” doesn’t really have aplot, but it does feature two recurring characters: Jonathan (Holger Andersson)and Sam (Nils Westblom) sell novelty items, but aren"t very good at it. They"reshy & tactless, as we see in any scene where they try lớn pitch people whocould clearly care less about plastic vampire fangs, và rubber Halloweenmasks. But Jonathan, who is repeatedly teased for being over-sensitive, alsosuffers from a vague sinking feeling that something is wrong with his life, andthat leads lớn problems with Sam later on.

Tobe fair, Jonathan"s not completely blameless. In one scene, we see him bullyinga store-owner who is too anxious và depressed to lớn address Jonathan & Sam whenthey demand payment for novelty items that were bought on credit. It"s anawkwardly heated argument since Jonathan và Sam have khổng lồ argue with theirclient through a third party: the store-owner’s wife. Jonathan & Sam"s seeminglack of empathy is what unites them with the various other people in "APigeon Sat On a Branch Reflecting on Existence." Several charactersreceive phone calls that lead them to miss whatever situation is happeningright in front of their eyes, like the callous scientist who ignores a monkeyshe"s performing electroshock therapy on or the desperate barber who doesn’t see his reluctant(and only) client leaving his barber shop. Each time this happens, the personon the phone ironically says "I"m glad that you"re doing fine,"reminding viewers that the opposite is actually true, & that a state ofun-fine-ness is actually what passes for normalcy in Andersson’s film.

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Anderssonis not however a pessimist nor is "A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting onExistence" a cynical film. On the contrary, "Pigeon" leads viewersthrough a series of comically bleak vignettes towards a hopefully open-endedconclusion. In a 2009 interview published in MuBI by former "At the Movies" co-host IgnatiyVishnevetsky, Andersson describes his simultaneously unsparing but ennoblingsensibility as "a light without mercy." Vishenvetsky correctly addsthat "There"s a difference between being ‘without mercy’ & beingcruel." You can see exactly what Vishnevetsky means in the mostconfrontational scene in "Pigeon:" a dream sequence wherein white xanh bloods mix agiant container full of black slaves on fire, và watch as the containerrevolves slowly và makes music. The painfully deliberate pacing of this scenemakes it surprisingly shocking. You realize what"s happening well before thescene is over, but by the time the scene ends, you"ll also realize that you"vejust seen the most serious scene in "Pigeon." It"s a howl ofinflexible indignation that informs the rest of the film"s slipperypre-apocalyptic comedy.

Anderssonis able khổng lồ essentially lecturehis audience intolaughing at his funhouse reflections of human insensitivity because he has avery exact style, one that he"s honed after directing hundreds of equallysurreal commercials. Andersson takes his time behind the camera. He typicallyreshoots scenes that feature only a handful of dialogue over and over again,sometimes several dozen times. He doesn"t agonize over shots, according to lớn lineproducer John Carlsson, but rather just chooses them at his own pace. Thatsensitivity shows in "Pigeon""s sets: life-like models andfixtures that make you feel like you"re looking at street scenes when in fact you"relooking at vividly detailed interior sets that also retain a magical kind ofartificiality. The film"s interiors are similarly shot like tableaux vivantsthat just barely come alive whenever a zombie-like protagonist trudges through.The world of "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence" is,in that sense, fragile, but not really moribund. Andersson"s hystericallyimpotent characters may, in other words, be perpetually on the verge of aspiritual breakdown, but they never completely fall apart. That kind of mulishlystubborn resilience is very human, và also very funny.


Simon Abrams

Simon Abrams is a native New Yorker and freelance film critic whose work has been featured inThe thành phố new york Times,Vanity Fair,TheVillage Voice,and elsewhere.