How does one describe A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence? Imagine Ingmar Bergman directed Federico Fellini’s And the Ship Sails On. That’s the closest approximation I can muster.


Whatever dumb adjectives I come up with to describe it, writer-director Roy Andersson has made a masterpiece. A series of interconnected scenes, beautifully composed and shot with an unmoving camera, highly absurd and darkly comic, detail the comings and goings of two goofy novelty salesman—to call these guys hapless (as the press notes do) would be a compliment.


It takes a scene or two to get used to the Tom Savini-like pancake make-up each actor is coated with (and their seemingly George Romero-inspired movements), but it becomes part of the pastiche, a way to glue scenes together when our two salesman are off-camera. Highlights include a scene in which King Charles XII of Sweden enters a modern-day bar for a drink, and another with a mumbling old man holding a handgun in a giant office. But the winner is the scene with the flamenco teacher, aroused and enflamed, and her unwilling star pupil.


Movies like A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence don’t come around often enough. See it, and see it often. Inspired, hilarious, strangely charming.




Directed by Roy Andersson

With Nils Westblom and Holger Andersson

CCA Cinematheque

100 min.