A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence review

GamesRadar+ Verdict

One of the strangest films you’ll see this (or any) year, it unsettles, bores, elates and amuses in equal measure. Not for everyone, but there’s plenty to chew on.

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Odder than a trip to Ikea...

Completing one of cinema’s more oblique trilogies, Roy Andersson follows Songs From The Second Floor and You, The Living with this droll third episode “about being a human being”, winner of the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion.

Beginning with ‘Three meetings with death’, Pigeon is a series of vignettes – some of them brief, a couple hitting the quarter-hour mark – reflecting on life, death, ageing, nostalgia, debt and sexuality. The opening scene typifies what’s in store, as two pale-faced types silently contemplate exhibits in glass cases in a museum, including the eponymous pigeon.

A Pigeon will irritate as many as it delights and, even if you buy into Andersson’s singular world-view, some skits will simply pass you by. Others will have a profound effect: the sight of a monkey being electro-shocked, or black slaves being herded by English-speaking soldiers into a metallic rotating drum-like oven, their screams somehow transformed into beautiful music.

Some moments are jaw-dropping, notably when Sweden’s 18th-Century monarch, King Charles XII (Viktor Gyllenberg), stops at a café as a ceaseless procession of soldiers marches past the window. Supping a glass of mineral water, he then pays special attention to the young male bartender. Logic and cohesion don’t really apply here – Andersson’s bizarre world just wouldn’t allow it.

More info

Theatrical release24 April 2015
DirectorRoy Andersson
Starring"Holger Andersson","Nils Westblom","Charlotta Larsson","Viktor Gyllenberg"
Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.