Genre: Comedy, Drama
Directed by: Roy Andersson
Starring: Holger Andersson, Nils Westblom, Viktor Gyllenberg
If patience is a virtue, then fans of Swedish auteur Roy Andersson must be some of the most respectably forbearing people within our society. Following on from 2000’s Songs from the Second Floor and 2007’s You, the Living, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, a film that’s every bit as wonderful as its title, marks the conclusion of Andersson’s long gestating trilogy about “being a human being”. And, as has been the case with the two preceding instalments, it‘s well worth the wait.
Eerie and enchanting in equal measure, it is, as the previous parts were, an existential exposé on hopelessness and the human condition. The narrative loosely follows Sam and Jonathan (Nils Westblom and Holger Andersson, both winningly natural), a pair of travelling salesmen who are haplessly trying to peddle a number of novelty items. However, the real emphasis is aimed at the world around them, which is comprised of painterly compositions evocative of Jacques Tati, tinted with a pallid colour scheme, and shot in deep focus from a static camera that encourages the audience to analyse every pixel. It’s a world of pale complexions and painful existences, where scenes of heartbreak and hilarity walk in hand.
Andersson’s sharp script assuredly oscillates between the authentic and the absurd. Some sequences are uncomfortably relatable; the sight of two sons attempting to pilfer the profitable contents of their mum’s handbag from her dying grasp stresses our species’ self-indulgent greed. Whilst others simply show the bizarrely hilarious; the bustle of a blotchy bar is twice interrupted by the arrival of King Charles XII (Viktor Gyllenberg ) of Sweden, as he makes his way to and from doing battle with the Russians.
There are nods to the traumatic present, Sam and Jonathan’s journey sees them struggling to adapt in a society blighted by a financial crisis. And acknowledgements of our tragic past; one of the most striking shots observes a group of soldiers forcing a number of slaves into an eccentrically detailed steal drum that then becomes a rotisserie oven, roasting those inside while a group of aristocratical pensioners look on impassively.
The most rousing scene though, takes place in Limping Lotte’s Bar in 1943, where the eponymous owner offers out Vodka shots to penniless servicemen for the price of a kiss. An arresting air of uncertainty envelops the lens, pervaded with the poignancy of the era. And yet, as proprietor and patrons join together in song and unity, the atmosphere transforms into one of hope, something that you sadly and significantly soon realise, is so often missing from our own existence.