A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (4 stars)

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Roy Andersson concludes his 'living' trilogy with considerable style and humour

Vampire teeth, Charles XII of Sweden, a sexually inappropriate flamenco class and an opportunistic bar-owner known as 'Limping Lotta' are just some of the diverse ingredients in Roy Andersson's latest collection of absurdist anguish. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence is the final part of the director's trilogy about the human condition, which began with 2000's Songs from the Second Floor and continued with 2007's You, the Living.

This concluding chapter contains the 'living' trilogy's biggest laughs and its most compelling thread – with the listless endeavours of a pair of novelty item salesmen Sam and Jonathan (played by Nils Westblom and Holger Andersson) taking what passes here for centre stage. Past and present fuse hilariously and there are affectionate grotesques aplenty alongside musical interludes. More of the same then, but that's what we love him for.

As ever, Andersson offers up a series of periodically connected, precision executed vignettes, depicting life in a near colourless but highly characterful Gothenburg. He begins with a dishevelled man puzzling over taxidermy before launching into 'three meetings with death'. It's a vision of Sweden miles from the stereotype of egalitarianism, healthy lifestyles and beautiful people. Frozen in their hopelessness, worry weighing heavily on their rounded shoulders, these citizens are lumpy and ghoulishly pale and never far from death. The rich are cruel, the lower classes desperate and people are persistently happy to hear that others are doing fine, with the heady atmosphere of drudgery and disaffection making a nonsense of the phrase.

A Pigeon offers multiple moments of inspired surrealism – from a lab worker making idle chit-chat on her phone as a baboon is noisily electrocuted in the foreground, to the army of Charles XII entering a modern bar, where an unlucky punter gets a taste of the whip. For all the dark humour and dour predicaments there's a gentleness to proceedings, an overarching feeling of compassion for these unfortunates. Modern life may indeed be rubbish but Andersson communicates that sentiment with a certain amount of sorrow and an awful lot of style.

Selected release from Fri 24 Apr.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • Sweden / Norway / France / Germany
  • 1h 41min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Roy Andersson
  • Cast: Nisse Vestblom, Holger Andersson
  • UK release: 24 April 2015

A series of periodically connected vignettes depicting life in a near-colourless but highly characterful Gothenburg, linked together by the endeavours of novelty item salesman Sam and Jonathan (Westblom and Andersson). The third part of Andersson's 'living' trilogy is full of inspired surrealism, dark humour and…