A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence

Art & Culture

I don't think there is any way I can adequately describe this film. Maybe Beckett meets Monty Python; existential comedy'; deadpan Swedish surrealsim. It is really like nothing else you'll ever see. I'm even torn between telling you it's a work of genius or a pretentious load of bollocks. Probably both. But I do think you should see it if you possibly can, simply because of its unique brilliance.

Even trying to explain the plot is beyond my capacity, since the film consists of a series of set pieces, more like tableaux vivants than anything else, in which improbable and/or mundane events take place while we struggle to make sense of what we are watching. The scene that impressed itself most strongly on my memory is set in a cafe in what looks like the industrial outskirts of a big city (Stockholm?). People are sitting, eating and drinking, when a procession of soldiers starts marching past. What makes this most peculiar is that these are 18th century soldiers, en route (we assume) to a battle. After a while – nothing happens in a hurry in this film – a general rides into the cafe and it turns out that this is Charles XII, King of Sweden on his way to fight the Russians. Cleese, Palin, Idle et al couldn't have come up with anything more deadpan, bizarre and wonderfully incredible.

There is one repetitive theme throughout the film, which is the presence of two travelling salesmen, trying to flog novelty items from the suitcase they lug around with them. The trouble is that not only are the novelty items as dull and unappealing as you can imagine, the salesmen themselves are even duller less appealing. They couldn't sell carrots to Bugs Bunny. They are hopeless – literally.

What you make of this, in the unlikely event of your going to see it, is anyone's guess. I would love you to go, simply because you will never see another film like it, and you will emerge from the cinema dazed and confused, but hopefully entertained. In a world of homogenous cinema, Roy Andersson's vision is wonderful – bizarre, unique, hilarious, depressing, incomprehensible and even, sometimes dull. I wonder what Swedes make of it.


Front Row Films

Content supplied by the excellent front row films website check the site and join up for many more reviews and general all-round film goodness.