30 March 2016 | 9:44 pm | David O’Connell

"A strange dryly humorous examination of life, that threatens to disappear into navel gazing."

The third in director Roy Andersson's trilogy (Songs From The Second Floor, You, The Living) on life. A Pigeon Sat Upon The Branch Contemplating Existence, looks at endings. This does not necessarily mean death per se (despite it being three vignettes about meeting death), but it is certainly concerned with those closer to that end of life - and the failures, regrets and recollections they have. Told as a loose collection of short scenes, we are guided through the human condition by a pair of luckless novelty vendors Jonathan (Holger Andersson) and Sam (Nisse Westblom).

There is something of a comedic Rorschach test about Pigeon. The absurdist humour present here is certainly not always the easiest to understand or to follow. When it lands it does make a poignant contribution, making the audience question the nature of the world and even the progression of humanity. Yet it feels more miss than hit. Despite the obvious talent on display, the director's message seems lost in the dry, deadpan delivery he imposes on the actors. It works for some of the runtime, but soon the audience becomes as apathetic as the characters, and the film begins to drag. A few spectacular moments arrest this fall, providing some shock value, but it all seems a confusing muddle coming to naught.

All of which feels overly harsh. You can see the shape of the world that Andersson creates. Inspired by the painting, The Hunters in The Snow, it is a world painted with the precision and detail of a canvas. In locking off the camera for the duration of the scene (and a careful pallet selection), he creates cinema akin to appreciating a painting. A world with as much interest in the background as in the foreground, as significant events play out in the grand tableau he is creating. It is a world were social interaction is boiled down to simple, repetitive schemas (as can be seen in the running joke of every phone conversation being 'I'm glad to hear you are doing okay'). A world where King Charles XII can stop by a present day bar on his march to Russia (despite being separated by 300 years), or hundreds of years of colonialism can be boiled down into one grisly metaphor. 

Pigeon is a strange dryly humorous examination of life, that threatens to disappear into navel gazing.  

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Originally published in X-Press Magazine