Set to premiere tomorrow at Venice Film Festival before stopping by Toronto later this month, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence marks the long-awaited return from Sweden’s Roy Andersson (Songs from the Second Floor, You, the Living). Capping off his trilogy of films, his latest features a series of vignettes and has had comparisons to the work of Luis Buñuel.
Described as an “absurdist, surrealistic and shocking pitch-black comedy, which moves freely from nightmare to fantasy to hilariously deadpan humor as it muses on man’s perpetual inhumanity to man,” the first, English-subtitled trailer has arrived today. Featuring a preview from a handful of scenes, this deadpan humor is fully on display, shaping up to be something we can’t wait to experience. Check it out below, along with a batch of new stills and a synopsis.
The most distinctive Swedish filmmaker since Ingmar Bergman, Roy Andersson has influenced the work of filmmakers as different as Ruben Östlund and Finland’s Dome Karukoski — both of whom also have features in this year’s Festival. Andersson’s new film, the third part of a trilogy that began with Songs from the Second Floor and continued with You, the Living, demonstrates exactly why his influence is so powerful and pervasive. Filmmakers a quarter his age wouldn’t venture the risks he takes here, and his skill and craft rival those of the great masters.
A mixture of absurdist, hilariously deadpan humour, shock, and utter horror. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence presents a series of darkly comic vignettes organized around two narrative strands. In one, two hapless novelty salesmen wander around town trying to sell their inventory of vampire fangs and rubber masks, all the while bickering like an old married couple; in the other, Charles XII, Sweden’s most bellicose king, reappears in modern times to carry on his series of disastrous defeats. Shifting between nightmare, fantasy, reverie, and even an impromptu musical number, the film culminates with a blistering indictment of what Andersson presents as humanity’s stunning lack of empathy.
Though he’s been called a slapstick Bergman and compared to Fellini, Andersson is closest to Luis Bunuel in both his surrealist flourishes and the rage — as well as the genuine empathy and sorrow — that underlies his twisted humour. Andersson has said that A Pigeon was heavily influenced by Dostoevsky and, like the work of the Russian master, his film is not for the faint of heart. It is an extremely provocative and very disturbing critique of our times.
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence premieres at Venice and plays at TIFF.