REVIEW — A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting Upon Existence (2014)

FilmJuice have my review of Roy Andersson’s deadpan existentialist comedy A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting Upon Existence.

I must admit that this film caught me completely by surprise.  Prior to this review, I was only really familiar with Andersson’s first film, the wonderfully moving teenage love story entitled — aptly enough — A Swedish Love Story. Having now seen a couple more of his films and read a few interviews, I now realise that A Swedish Love Story is completely unrepresentative of the talent that emerged after a long depression-linked hiatus. Andersson may have gone to work in advertising as a successful maker of sentimental films but he returned as a bleakly existentialist comic who produces what can only be described as the cinematic equivalent of Chris Morris’s Jam.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting Upon Existence takes place in a darkly surreal version of the Swedish city of Gothenburg where the futility of everyday life is periodically interrupted by eruptions of surrealist energy that allow the residents fleeting moments of happiness or sadness before returning them to their anhedonic stupor:

Characters flirt outrageously in one scene only to wind up being unceremoniously dumped in the background of another while complete strangers lambast each other for having the temerity to suggest that a Wednesday might feel like a Thursday. The only things that seem to keep the utterly defeated population from outright madness are moments when the past unexpectedly erupts into the present and sends Napoleonic armies marching through the streets while bawdy barkeeps sing about exchanging drinks for kisses while their patrons cheer them on.

The release of this film coincides with the release of a box set including not only A Pigeon and A Swedish Love Story but also Songs from the Second Floor and You, The Living. I recommend it to anyone capable of finding humour in the pointlessness of existence.



  1. Just got my copy of this, maybe it should move to first on my view queue, before I read the post. 😉


  2. I appreciated how queasy and uncomfortable the whole thing made me, and the high point of this feeling was definitely the colonial scene, which left me not knowing how to react at all. (A difficult feat.) However, the only African-American in the movie theater got up and left directly afterward said scene, and I remember thinking how the film must’ve made her feel even more uncomfortable, and in a different way. I don’t think it’d be worthwhile to charge Andersson with identity-crimes, but it did accentuate how the film spares no one any scar tissue.


  3. Yes… the colonial scene is singularly unpleasant, as is the scene where the woman talks amiably on a mobile phone as a monkey twitches and gyrates in an experimental harness.

    I took it to be a commentary of Swedish racism rather than, as you put it, an identity-crime but the whole film is positioned on the brink of awkwardness and that’s why I think it has more in common with dark and surrealist TV comedy than it does with cinema in general or Swedish cinema in particular.


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