Long-takes, static cameras, posed actors, unlinked scenes, absurdist situations and subtitles, it really is a wonder why I didn’t catch A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting on Existence at the local multiplex. If ever a film screamed “Defiantly Arthouse” then this is it.
This is the third film in Roy Andersson’s “living” trilogy. I haven’t seen the first two and, given the resolutely disconnected way this film pans out, I doubt it would make much of a difference to my opinion if I had. I would probably have been better prepared although part of the pleasure – or displeasure, this film is marmite – comes from the realisation that absolutely nothing in the 110 minutes Pigeon takes is going to play by any structurally sound rules.
Not for Andersson such petty considerations as plot, character development or action. What we have here are tableaux, loosely linked by two unsucessful false vampire teeth salesmen. There is a palette of beige and brown costume, and whitened faces so that the whole thing looks like it’s come via a lost video from thirty-five years ago. Nobody expresses but there are jokes, some of them actually funny. There’s a soupçon of pathos too and possibly we’re meant to dwell on the human condition in some way as well. If we are, that’s a bit less successful.
The odd thing about it all is how optimistic it makes you feel despite the fact that very little optimistic happens. But then maybe a film which begins with someone having a heart attack opening a bottle of wine and ends [SPOILER ALERT LIKE IT MATTERS] with a group waiting a bus stop unsure of the day but looking to the sky is somehow taking the viewer on a positive journey. It’s not the most straightforward way of getting jolly but I’ll take it over a lot of the more mainstream alternatives.